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Ravens seeing “different gear” from Marquise Brown in recent practices

Posted on 18 August 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One of the biggest story lines for the Ravens’ trip to Philadelphia to practice against the Eagles ahead of the third preseason game will be the status of wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Head coach John Harbaugh said the 2019 first-round pick practiced fully Saturday and would “hopefully … be good” to practice fully against the Eagles this week, which could pave the way for his preseason debut Thursday in what’s expected to be the final exhibition action for quarterback Lamar Jackson and most other starters. The health of Brown’s surgically-repaired left foot remains paramount, of course, but the speedy rookie building an on-field rapport with his starting quarterback is becoming a greater priority with the season opener in Miami just three weeks away.

Brown began taking part in full-team drills Aug. 10 after being brought along very slowly over the first 2 1/2 weeks of training camp.

“We’re giving him more every day. I think the plan was the right plan,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “This past week, we really saw a different gear from him, and that’s exciting. Now, we have to build some chemistry with him and Lamar.

“His style is a little different. He can kick that gear in. You better put some mustard on that ball.

Slot cornerback Tavon Young continues to weigh his options for a disc issue in his neck that could keep him out for the entire season, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has no shortage of potential replacements at the nickel position, even if they don’t provide the same upside or versatility. Cyrus Jones has started at the position in each of the first two preseason games to mixed reviews, but it appears unlikely he’ll hold the job exclusively at this point.

Every game situation could bring a different defensive player to the slot, which is the benefit of having depth in the secondary.

“Cyrus is the No. 1 nickel right now, but we’ll just wait and see what happens when we game-plan it,” Martindale said. “Brandon Carr has been in there. ‘Double A’ (Anthony Averett) has been in there. We can put different guys in there, and it’s matchup — what we think is the best. We put Chuck [Clark] and DeShon [Elliott] in there. It’s just a matchup thing.”

In addition to Young, 13 other players were absent from Sunday’s practice with cornerback Marlon Humphrey, wide receiver Miles Boykin, and outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray being new absences. Others continuing to be sidelined included running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon (knee), wide receiver Seth Roberts, offensive lineman Marshal Yanda (foot), Randin Crecelilus, and Greg Senat, cornerback Iman Marshall (thigh), and inside linebackers Chris Board (concussion) and Nicholas Grigsby.

Inside linebackers Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young returned to practice after sitting out Saturday’s session.

The Ravens traveled to Philadelphia Sunday evening ahead of joint practices Monday and Tuesday. The Eagles’ 4-3 base defense and widely-aligned edge rushers should provide a valuable test for Jackson and a young offense this week.

“They get out there in those wide nines, and they’re coming off the edge. They bring it. They’re a real penetrating, run-to-the-ball defense,” Roman said. “It’s just a different style, and to be able to practice against those different nuances that you’re going to see throughout the season [is beneficial].

“It’s a great advantage for the guys to [have played against] more of a 3-4 structure [against Green Bay] last week, more of an eight-man front, 4-3 [against Jacksonville] the week before, and now they get to play against that 4-3 stack with those wide nines.”

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hill2

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 26-13 preseason win over Green Bay

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens topping Green Bay in a 26-13 final for their 15th straight preseason win, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Established veterans often coast through the early weeks of the preseason, but Matthew Judon reminded everyone he’s playing for a contract with two back-side pursuit plays resulting in a sack and a third-down stop on a screen pass. The closing speed he showed was very impressive.

2. Tavon Young’s neck injury brings much attention to the nickel corner position, but neither Cyrus Jones nor Anthony Averett impressed in that spot Thursday. I’m confident defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will make it work, but the Ravens will miss Young’s talents in that important role.

3. Jermaine Eluemunor’s strong performance is why coaches have been patient with him despite the well-documented growing pains. He rebounded from last week’s struggles in a major way, even if he still needs to block through the whistle more consistently. Eluemunor also held up pretty well as the backup left tackle.

4. The lack of separation at outside linebacker behind Judon was telling as Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Jaylon Ferguson, and Shane Ray all saw action into the fourth quarter. Ferguson seeing action much earlier than last week speaks to his stock rising while Ray still hasn’t distinguished himself.

5. We knew about the speed with his 40-yard dash time, but Justice Hill continues to show physicality not indicative of a 200-pound running back with so many broken tackles. Hill, Lamar Jackson, and a healthy Marquise Brown all on the field together could be an unsettling sight for defensive coordinators.

6. Coverage is his primary focus, but Marlon Humphrey shedding a block from veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga to make a tackle for a loss is another reason why he’s becoming one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. His dominant play on the outside is even more critical now after the Young injury.

7. I wasn’t positive Chris Moore was a lock to make the roster after his quiet start to camp and Seth Roberts’ early performance, but Moore likely removed any lingering doubt Thursday. Meanwhile, Roberts isn’t helping his case being sidelined with an injury while Jaleel Scott pushes for a job.

8. The Ravens may forgo keeping a fourth inside linebacker, but Otaro Alaka continued to position himself nicely with a game-high six tackles and two for a loss. Alaka shows good closing speed and would be an obvious practice-squad candidate if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.

9. Miles Boykin not catching a pass on three targets isn’t alarming, but his failure to curl toward the line of scrimmage on Jackson’s third-down rollout on the first drive reminds that he still needs polish, which is OK. Despite the summer hype, he wasn’t drafted as a finished product.

10. Justin Bethel missed two tackles on special teams and was playing cornerback late in the second half. I’ve dismissed previous questions about his roster status since the Ravens guaranteed him $1 million early in free agency for his special-teams ability, but Thursday wasn’t a good showing.

11. Many were critical of the illegal blindside block penalty on Willie Snead that negated Jackson’s highlight touchdown run, but the call seemed to be in line with the NFL’s expanded blindside block rule (2:00 mark). We’ll see just how vigilant officials are about calling this in the regular season.

12. If you need a reminder of how little the preseason resembles real games, Jackson has yet to target Mark Andrews in two games with the pair not even being on the field together that much. The rapport they’ve shown in camp suggests that’s some sandbagging from Greg Roman.

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humphrey1

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of second preseason game

Posted on 13 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding open training camp ahead of the second preseason game against Green Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Marlon Humphrey was consistently the best player on the field these last three weeks, but his attention to detail also stood out. When he wasn’t taking reps, you’d frequently see the third-year corner reviewing plays on a tablet. He’s on track for a Pro Bowl season if he stays healthy.

2. His practice return brought relief Tuesday, but I believe more every day that expectations for Marquise Brown need to be tempered, especially early in the season. The effects of a foot injury for a speed-dependent player and limited practice time don’t exactly set the rookie up for immediate success.

3. Eric DeCosta deserves praise for fetching a fifth-round pick for Kaare Vedvik, who’s never played in an NFL regular-season game. It was wise not to get greedy knowing a couple misses Thursday could have made potential trade partners quickly reconsider interest. Baltimore’s kicker development is second to none.

4. We’ve spent much time talking about Lamar Jackson as a passer, but John Harbaugh described him as having “very high emotional IQ” to explain his natural leadership qualities and why teammates gravitate to him. There’s no way to quantify that, but it has to help at the quarterback position.

5. Along similar lines, defensive players seem to feed off Earl Thomas, who has picked his spots to show emotion and leads more by example. There’s been an adjustment for him playing in a more complex system than he did in with Seattle, but it’s going to be fun watching him.

6. Hayden Hurst had arguably his best practice of camp Tuesday, looking much more like the player we saw last summer before the foot injury. Besides health, a key for him is maintaining confidence and not letting a rough play linger in his mind, something Mark Andrews seems adept at doing.

7. With Iman Marshall missing three straight practices after appearing to have a thigh issue, many are assuming that could “stash” the rookie on injured reserve. That may prove true, but you hate seeing a young corner miss out on valuable reps with final cuts still more than two weeks away.

8. I wouldn’t have said Michael Floyd was even in the running for a roster spot prior to the preseason opener, but he’s turned in some of his best practices this last week. With Seth Roberts missing time and Brown’s status still spotty, Floyd has some daylight to make a push.

9. The Ravens are smart to play it safe with Marshal Yanda and a lingering foot issue, but I can’t help but think back to him acknowledging how big a factor health will be in determining how much longer he plays. This offensive line desperately needs him at his best.

10. With four cornerbacks missing practice and Maurice Canady only returning to the field Tuesday, how the Ravens line up in the secondary against the Packers could be interesting. It’s a reminder why Baltimore values depth at the position after being so shorthanded there several years ago.

11. I’ll never profess love for preseason football, but at least we’ll get to see Aaron Rodgers. Fans weren’t complaining, but it was a bummer not seeing him play when the Ravens went to Lambeau two years ago. The Packers will again play in Baltimore in the 2021 regular season.

12. If you already have an eye toward the season, 10 of the Ravens’ 16 games come against defenses that ranked in the bottom 10 in yards per carry allowed last season. Yes, it’s a new year, but that’s reason for optimism, even if you’re not yet buying the Jackson hype.

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marquisebrown

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“Process” continues as Ravens rookie Marquise Brown practices Tuesday

Posted on 13 August 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown caught a slant pass and accelerated during Tuesday’s practice, flashing the blazing speed that made him a first-team All-American at Oklahoma.

At other times, the 2019 first-round pick still appeared tentative changing direction. But the sight of the 5-foot-9, 170-pound rookie being back on the practice field was reassuring after he missed Monday’s practice, just two days after the Ravens had ramped up his practice participation.

Brown took 17 combined full-team and seven-on-seven reps during the shells-and-shorts practice, a bigger workload than he handled in either of the two weekend workouts. However, his return from January Lisfranc surgery on his left foot remains a day-by-day proposition with the season opener less than four weeks away.

“It’s just going to be a process with Marquise and seeing how he feels from one day to the next,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s healing. I think part of it is just getting strong from the reps. He’s been healing, so he hasn’t been running and there are muscles in there that need to be trained and stuff. He looked great today. He looked really good.”

Brown is not expected to play in Thursday’s preseason opener against Green Bay after seeing most of his full-team work in non-padded practices Saturday and Tuesday. However, it’s apparent the Ravens are doing all they can to accelerate his learning curve with wide receivers coach David Culley providing individual input after most of his snaps and quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, and Joe Callahan — Brown has taken reps with the first, second, and third offenses — targeting him frequently when he’s taking part in a play.

Managing any lingering soreness when he makes cuts remains a priority for the training staff, but Brown is trying to get into football shape and apply his understanding of the offensive system on the field after missing spring workouts and seeing very limited practice time in training camp until the last four days. The 22-year-old began camp on the non-football injury list before making his practice debut on July 31.

“I felt pretty good. I got me a good day off to get some rest,” said Brown, who caught two passes on five targeted throws Tuesday. “Today, I opened up more and got some shots and was able to make some plays.

“I feel like each day I’m getting better. Each day, I’ve got to knock some rust off technique-wise and [with] stuff I’ve got to get down.”

Eleven players were missing from Tuesday’s practice, a list that included right guard Marshal Yanda (foot/ankle), outside linebackers Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, and Mike Onuoha (wrist), wide receiver Seth Roberts, and offensive linemen Greg Senat and Randin Crecelius. Yanda and Judon have missed two consecutive workouts, but the reason for the latter’s absence is unknown.

A deep cornerback group was particularly hit hard Tuesday with Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett, and Iman Marshall all missing practice. Young has missed back-to-back practices while Marshall has sat out three in a row. Maurice Canady did return to the field for the first time since the preseason opener last Thursday.

“It’s just the middle of training camp right now. There are varying things with varying guys,” Harbaugh said. “We gave Jimmy a rest. A couple of guys need to get some tests and some things like that. It’s really nothing to comment on. But when there is, you’ll be the second to know.”

The Packers are expected to play quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the rest of their starters for roughly a quarter after Jacksonville rested virtually all of its starters against Baltimore last week. Harbaugh said he plans to follow a similar script to last week when Jackson played 16 snaps over three series before giving way to rookie Trace McSorley to begin the second quarter.

“We kind of balance it out. We have a way of doing it that goes back [to the way] my brother did it in San Francisco,” Harbaugh said. “It’s unique. It’s different than really what anybody else does, but that’s how we do it. He’ll play about the same.”

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marquisebrown

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Ravens hold out Marquise Brown two days after ramping up practice activity

Posted on 12 August 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just as the Ravens finally ramped up wide receiver Marquise Brown’s practice activity, the rookie first-round pick was nowhere to be found Monday.

The 25th overall pick in April’s draft wasn’t on the field for the morning workout after taking his first full-team reps Saturday and Sunday. Recovering from January surgery that repaired a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, Brown had missed spring workouts and the first five full-squad practices of training camp before making his summer debut on July 31. The Oklahoma product took part only in individual position work in his first six practices and didn’t play in the preseason opener before finally participating in 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven drills over the weekend.

Brown saw roughly a dozen snaps split between the first- and second-team offenses Saturday, making five catches and dropping one pass in an encouraging showing. However, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver appeared to take fewer reps the next day, making his full absence just three days before the second preseason game at least a little more concerning. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer much clarity when asked about Brown’s absence after practice.

“He’s recovering. All those kinds of things are just part of training camp,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not going to get into every single guy or why he’s here or why he’s not. We don’t have any serious injuries. It’s just part of our process.”

Brown was one of 11 players not suited up for the start of Monday’s workout, joining safety Earl Thomas, right guard Marshal Yanda, outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Mike Onuoha (wrist), wide receiver Seth Roberts, offensive linemen Greg Senat and Randin Crecelius, and cornerbacks Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, and Iman Marshall. Thomas and Yanda have received occasional veteran days off over the first 2 1/2 weeks of camp, but such treatment would be unlikely with the remaining absentees.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith left the field roughly 20 minutes into practice with “nothing serious,” according to Harbaugh. The 31-year-old veteran was not being accompanied by a trainer as he exited.

Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby practiced for the first time since missing the first preseason game.

New candidate at left guard

Much has been made about an underwhelming start to the competition for the starting left guard spot, but a new candidate has apparently entered the picture.

Rookie Patrick Mekari shared first-team reps with Jermaine Eluemunor Monday and has been regarded by members of the organization as an undrafted free agent to watch. Mekari, a 6-foot-4, 308-pound lineman from Cal-Berkeley, was slowed by a back injury in the spring and was briefly on the physically unable to perform list to begin training camp before being activated.

“We have kind of been working him up to this,” Harbaugh said. “He played well in the game. He had a good practice [Sunday]. Let’s see what he can do. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what training camp is for.”

Eluemunor was considered a slight favorite to win the job entering camp, but Harbaugh has been critical of his conditioning and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris labeled him a “work in progress” Sunday. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound lineman failed his conditioning test at the start of camp, which led to rookie Ben Powers taking most of the starter reps early on. Eluemunor has also drawn a number of pre-snap penalties in practices, drawing the ire of the coaching staff.

The 2017 fifth-round pick from Texas A&M appeared in 17 games and made three starts over his first two seasons, seeing his most extensive action as an injury replacement at right guard and left tackle.

“It’s going well,” said Eluemunor about his play early in camp and in the preseason opener. “It’s just little technique things I want to work on like dropping my pads, changing up my stance, really coming off the ball and hitting the defender, working on my hands better, and just getting a better feel for it. But it was a good start.”

Credit to go around for Vedvik

Harbaugh offered praise to former special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, special teams coach Chris Horton, and special teams assistant and kicking guru Randy Brown for their work in identifying and developing kicker Kaare Vedvik, who was traded to Minnesota for a 2020 fifth-round pick Sunday.

“It’s good to see it pay off, especially for Kaare,” Harbaugh said. “He was in here every single day, every day, the whole year. Everybody would go home. He would be in here working out and kicking. It’s good to see it pay off for him.”

Harbaugh also thanked owner Steve Bisciotti for keeping Vedvik “on the payroll” after the undrafted rookie was assaulted in East Baltimore at the end of last year’s preseason and spent the entire regular season on the non-football injury list.

The Ravens expect to add another kicker to share practice and preseason reps with kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch.

Defense shines

The Ravens defense got the best of their offensive counterparts Monday as dime back Anthony Levine intercepted and returned a Lamar Jackson pass for a touchdown during an 11-on-11 drill and cornerback Marlon Humphrey picked off a Trace McSorley pass that deflected off Jaleel Scott’s hands in seven-on-seven work. The offense struggled to complete passes against tight coverage during a few stretches of the workout.

Jackson’s prettiest play came in a seven-on-seven red-zone period in which he connected with rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin on a tight-window throw in the front corner of the end zone. Veteran wide receiver Michael Floyd also continued his recent practice surge with a few impressive plays, including the one below:

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marquisebrown2

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Marquise Brown participates in first full-team practice work with Ravens

Posted on 10 August 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown has taken another step toward establishing his “Hollywood” nickname at the next level.

The first-round pick took his first full-team reps of training camp Saturday, but the Ravens defense wasn’t ready to anoint the former Oklahoma superstar just yet. Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor was only willing to give Brown the first half of the moniker, but encouraging signs were there as the speedster caught five passes in roughly a dozen snaps split between 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven periods of practice. Brown took reps with Lamar Jackson and the starting offense as well as with fellow rookie Trace McSorley and the second string.

“They’re always joking around,” said Brown, who also dropped a pass thrown slightly behind him by McSorley. “They’re like, ‘You’re Holly right now. You don’t get the full name.’ I’m just trying to make some plays to earn my name.”

The Ravens have brought Brown along slowly since he made his practice debut on July 31. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver had only taken part in individual position drills and did not play in the preseason opener against Jacksonville, but he was pleased to finally be competing against defenders again.

Head coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about Brown’s status for the second exhibition game against Green Bay after the rookie sat out the final 30 minutes of the 2 1/2-hour workout. His activity level being ramped up is certainly a welcome sight for the organization that made him the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 draft and just the fourth wide receiver to be chosen in the first round in franchise history, joining Travis Taylor (2000), Mark Clayton (2005), and Breshad Perriman (2015).

Having undergone Lisfranc surgery on his left foot in January, Brown was still experiencing soreness when making certain cuts at the start of training camp. Minimizing that discomfort was considered the final hurdle for his return to the field, but the Ravens will continue to exercise caution with the start of the regular season still four weeks away.

“It seemed like he handled quite a bit,” Harbaugh said. “He was out there in quite a few drills, and we’ll see how he responds tomorrow with that. It’s a good first step. We’re all happy to see it.”

Brown told reporters his foot feels good, but he’s still regaining his confidence and pre-injury form, according to his position coach. That hasn’t stopped his speed from standing out, however.

“He looked real fast,” wide receivers coach David Culley said. “He didn’t feel fast, but I told him I didn’t see anything that would say that he’s been injured. He’s not quite where he was before, but I like where he’s at right now.”

Injury report

The Ravens returned to practice for the first time since their 29-0 victory over Jacksonville with three veteran players missing from the field.

Wide receiver Seth Roberts, running back Kenneth Dixon, and cornerback Maurice Canady didn’t practice with undisclosed ailments. Injuries severely hampered both Dixon and Canady over their first three seasons, a factor working against them in their respective battles for roster spots in deep position groups.

“Just little things. Nothing that will keep anybody out for too long,” said Harbaugh of the three injuries. “I don’t remember off the top of my head what they were. Seth just told me there that he’ll be back pretty quick — within a week or so. That’s what he said. The docs said it was maybe two or something, but nothing serious.”

Harbaugh confirmed outside linebacker Mike Onuoha sustained a broken wrist in Thursday’s game and will be out indefinitely. Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby and offensive lineman Randin Crecelius were also absent from Saturday’s practice after sitting out the preseason opener.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III continues to do light throwing with the football, but Harbaugh reiterated he won’t play in the preseason as his right thumb heals.

“He has the protective device on his thumb, so it’s just a matter of gripping the ball,” Harbaugh said. “He won’t be able to do anything until that fracture heals, which is a time frame. I think it’s three to four weeks before it even heals, and then we’ll work from there. We anticipate the first week of the season, if all goes well.”

The Ravens signed former Philadelphia and Carolina defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, who was a 2017 sixth-round pick of the Eagles. The Washington product has appeared in six career games and filled the open 90-man roster spot created by the Alex Lewis trade.

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boykin

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 07 August 2019 by Luke Jones

After an offseason full of change, skepticism, and excitement, we’ll get our first live-game glimpse of the 2019 Ravens in the preseason opener against Jacksonville Thursday night.

All eyes will be on quarterback Lamar Jackson as he enters his first full year as the starter, but it remains to be seen how much we’ll see of the 22-year-old who helped rally the Ravens to their first AFC North championship since 2012 last year. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t reveal his plans regarding playing time after Tuesday’s practice, but at least a few veteran players have been held out of the first preseason game in most summers during his tenure.

“We haven’t dialed it in exactly. We have a meeting tonight on all of that where we’ll dial it in exactly,” Harbaugh said. “I have my ideas on it. I think I know, but we’ll talk about it as a staff and figure it out and get a plan together.”

There will be no shortage of familiarity with the Jaguars, who traveled to Owings Mills to practice with the Ravens for two days earlier this week. Full contact was minimal, but the Ravens offense held its own against a talented Jacksonville defense while the Baltimore defense surprisingly struggled against quarterback Nick Foles and the Jaguars offense Tuesday afternoon.

Those practice reps against another team will serve as another interesting variable in determining how much veterans ultimately play Thursday. After practicing two days with the Ravens last summer, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t play any of their starters in a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium. In fact, Rams coach Sean McVay held most of his starters out for the entire preseason before his team ultimately advanced to the Super Bowl, which will surely provide food for thought for other NFL coaches moving forward.

“We got a lot done. They got a lot done,” said Harbaugh of the two practices with Jacksonville. “Hats off to coach [Doug] Marrone and the whole Jaguar organization. I thought they were very classy. Everything was very professional on both sides. We got our work done. We respected one another. It was good.”

Thursday marks the second time the Ravens and Jacksonville will meet in the preseason with Baltimore winning 48-17 in 2012. However, the Jaguars lead the all-time regular-season series by a 12-9 margin.

The Ravens own a 33-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh and have won 13 exhibition contests in a row a streak extending back to the opener of the 2016 preseason.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what one would look like if it were to be released ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include any veteran starters who could be held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: QB Robert Griffin III (thumb), WR Marquise Brown (foot), OL Randin Crecelius (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (foot/ankle)

Five players to watch Thursday night

RB Kenneth Dixon

Dixon is arguably the most fascinating player on the roster bubble. Injuries and two drug-related suspensions limited him to just 18 games over his first three seasons, but he averaged a robust 5.6 yards per carry last season and looks quicker and leaner this summer. No higher than third on the depth chart behind starter Mark Ingram and 2018 leading rusher Gus Edwards, Dixon doesn’t play special teams and is also competing with speedy rookie Justice Hill for snaps, additional factors not helping his case. No one doubts his talent, but is there enough trust to commit a spot to Dixon in the final year of his rookie deal? If not, you would think the Ravens will try to showcase him for a potential trade by summer’s end.

OLB Tim Williams

The 2017 third-round pick flashed in limited chances over his first two seasons, but nagging injuries and some questions about his dedication held Williams back when pass-rush rotation snaps were up for grabs. He has practiced more consistently this summer and is again flashing as a pass rusher, but his ability to set the edge is a significant question in his quest for extensive playing time. Williams appears to be second on the depth chart behind Pernell McPhee at rush linebacker, but he will need to prove himself in preseason games to not only force his way into a meaningful role but to lock up a roster spot. As defensive line coach Joe Cullen said this week, the clock ticking on Williams is “ready to explode.”

G Jermaine Eluemunor

After being waived last September and spending time on the practice squad, Eluemunor regained some roster footing with respectable fill-in play last season and took that momentum into the spring as he lined up as the starting left guard. However, Harbaugh has mentioned his need to get in better shape multiple times and Eluemunor failed the conditioning test at the start of training camp, leading to rookie Ben Powers taking most of the first-team reps over the first week. Eluemunor has since found his way back into the starting left guard spot, but his hold on the job is tenuous at best with Powers and James Hurst also in the mix. This is a massive opportunity Eluemunor can’t afford to squander any longer.

ILB Chris Board

Most anticipated Kenny Young stepping into the starting weak-side inside linebacker spot next to Patrick Onwuasor after four-time Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley’s free-agent departure in March, but it was apparent in the spring that Board — a 2018 undrafted free agent from North Dakota State who led the Ravens in special-teams tackles last year — had moved ahead of Young in the competition and he’s only strengthened his hold on the base and nickel jobs since camp opened. The Ravens like Board’s speed and have cited how much he dropped into pass coverage in college as valuable experience for his transition to the NFL, but we’re still talking about someone who played all of 14 defensive snaps as a rookie.

WR Miles Boykin

We won’t see first-round rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown Thursday since he’s only practiced on a very limited basis coming back from January foot surgery, but Boykin has looked like Baltimore’s best wide receiver at times this summer. The rookie third-round pick from Notre Dame always looked the part with a 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the combine, but those impressive traits have carried over to the practice field as he has made plays against the talented Baltimore secondary and has caught the ball pretty consistently. The key will be maintaining that momentum in preseason games to grow his confidence and continue building chemistry with Jackson.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of Thursday’s preseason opener

Posted on 06 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens preparing for Thursday’s preseason opener against Jacksonville, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Yes, it’s still just practice, but Lamar Jackson checked another box with two steady-to-strong showings against a talented Jacksonville defense. He isn’t suddenly a Marino-Vick hybrid, but he’s making good and on-time decisions with better accuracy. Within the reasonable range of expectations, the Ravens have to be pleased — and excited.

2. Jackson presents a preseason catch-22 John Harbaugh has rarely faced. The 22-year-old with eight career starts will surely benefit from game reps, but how much potential injury risk are you willing to take? I certainly expect him to play more than the 31 snaps Joe Flacco took all last preseason.

3. The timing of the Alex Lewis trade was a little surprising considering the current left guard picture, but his decision to handle his own shoulder rehab made it apparent the sides weren’t on the same page. It’s good news for Greg Senat and Patrick Mekari, two bubble linemen to watch.

4. Asked if the clock’s ticking on Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, defensive line coach Joe Cullen said, “The clock has ticked, and it’s ready to explode.” Both flashed more this past week, but these preseason games are massive for them and the other outside linebackers not named Matthew Judon.

5. All eyes are on the pass rush, but setting the edge is another question mark with Terrell Suggs gone. Cullen said Pernell McPhee is the best in that department opposite Judon, but you really prefer him being more situational rusher than starter in the base defense. That’s worrisome.

6. You’ve probably noticed the lack of Marquise Brown observations this past week, but the rookie first-round pick just isn’t doing much beyond individual position work. He obviously won’t play Thursday, but you’d certainly expect the Ravens to increase his activity level after that.

7. Veterans always deserve the benefit of the doubt this time of year, but it’s been a pretty slow start to camp for Jimmy Smith, who gave up two long touchdowns to Jacksonville receivers Tuesday and was visibly frustrated. The good news is it’s early August and the 31-year-old is healthy.

8. Besides Brown and Miles Boykin, two young wide receivers I’m looking forward to watching in the preseason are 2018 fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott and rookie free agent Antoine Wesley. Both are tall and have consistently made plays this summer, leaving them in the conversation for a roster spot.

9. Coaches have mentioned Jaylon Ferguson still adjusting to the speed of the game, but you hope being able to let loose in preseason action will get him going. How much he does — or doesn’t do — on special teams may dictate how he’s handled on game days early in the regular season.

10. Patrick Ricard and Cyrus Jones are two bubble players with which I’ve been impressed. Ricard has delivered crushing blocks as a fullback and extra tight end and provides game-day versatility as a defensive lineman. Strictly a punt returner last year, Jones has played with an edge as a nickel corner.

11. How Kaare Vedvik kicks in preseason games will determine whether the Ravens are able to fetch anything in a trade. I can’t imagine more than a conditional seventh-rounder, but he’ll need to show more accuracy than he has this spring and summer. The leg strength is definitely there.

12. Thirty minutes into Monday’s practice, Jacksonville’s James Onwualu was carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury. In the first 11 camp practices, not a single Raven was carted off and only a few even left the field with a health concern. I’ll now wait for the jinx accusations.

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Ravens welcome Marquise Brown to practice, cut former fifth-round receiver

Posted on 31 July 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens finally welcomed their explosive first-round wide receiver to the practice field Wednesday while also providing a reminder of their unfortunate track record at the position.

Marquise Brown was a limited participant in his first NFL practice less than seven months after undergoing Lisfranc surgery on his left foot. The speedy Oklahoma product suited up to take part in individual position drills after missing the first five full-squad workouts of training camp, an encouraging sign for a run-first offense seeking more upside at the wide receiver position.

The 22-year-old displayed good speed in a limited number of individual reps, but the Ravens will bring him along slowly after he was still feeling soreness making certain cuts at the start of training camp. It’s unclear whether Brown will play in the preseason opener against Jacksonville a week from Thursday.

“Hopefully, his progression to practice will be pretty fast,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll see. We don’t want any setbacks. We don’t have to over-rush him now, but I am looking forward to seeing him out there with other guys in real situations and seeing how he does.”

During full-team work, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown caught passes on the Jugs machine and studied a play sheet while watching practice with teammates. He received individual on-field instruction from wide receivers coach David Culley in the final portion of practice, working on the timing and spacing of his routes as quarterback Lamar Jackson threw passes to him.

Despite not being able to practice until this point, Brown has attended all meetings and expressed confidence in his knowledge of his assignments in the offense. The key will be translating that mental preparation to the field in time to make the play-making impact general manager Eric DeCosta envisioned when making Brown the fourth wide receiver selected in the first round in team history.

“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting on this,” Brown said. “To be out here made me realize I’ve got to work even harder. … I feel great. The training staff here is great. I just give them all the credit and just follow what I had to do.”

As Brown saw his first practice time as an NFL player, the Ravens waived 2018 fifth-round wide receiver Jordan Lasley, who was inactive for all 16 games in his rookie season. The UCLA product caught 69 passes for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior season for the Bruins in 2017, but questionable hands and maturity questions prompted his slide down the draft board.

Those issues persisted in his time with the Ravens as he dropped too many passes and showed inconsistent effort during practices, sometimes drawing the ire of coaches. On Monday, Lasley was involved in an altercation with defensive backs Cyrus Jones and Bennett Jackson that included some punches being thrown. A few minutes after the scuffle, the 22-year-old receiver caught a touchdown pass and threw the football into the pond adjacent to the practice field.

Harbaugh said those incidents “absolutely did not” factor into the decision to cut Lasley, but his path to a roster spot already appeared bleak early in camp.

“We’ve never cut somebody for fighting anyway,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been over a year [with Lasley] now. I think just from a fit perspective in terms of what we’re trying to do with our offense, other guys are going to be a better fit. I feel like Eric gave him an opportunity to get out with another team right now rather than wait.”

Lasley is the latest in a long list of drafted wide receiver not to pan out for the Ravens. After taking four-year starter and Super Bowl XLVII champion Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft, Baltimore drafted nine wide receivers from 2011 through 2018 who combined to make just 116 career catches for the Ravens. Only 2018 fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott remains from that group, and he is battling for a roster spot this summer after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. It’s fair noting, however, that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman was the only one of the bunch to be selected before the fourth round, illustrating what little meaningful draft capital was invested in the position for a long time.

In his first year as general manager, DeCosta tried to buck that trend with the additions of Brown and third-round pick Miles Boykin, which equaled the number of wide receivers the Ravens drafted in the first three rounds from 2008-2018. Boykin has impressed early in training camp, and Brown now hopes to join the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Notre Dame product in turning heads and providing Jackson with dangerous weapons in the passing game.

“Miles is my roommate, so every day I just hype him up, talk him up,” Brown said. “He’s been doing a great job. I’m just trying to feed off of what he’s doing and, once I’m on the field, complement him the best I can.”

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Ravens rookie receiver Marquise Brown passes physical, set to practice

Posted on 30 July 2019 by Luke Jones

Rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown wasn’t quite ready for the start of training camp, but the Ravens didn’t have to wait too much longer for their first-round pick to finally hit the field.

The first-round pick passed his physical and was removed from the non-football injury list Tuesday, paving the way for his practice debut when the Ravens return to work Wednesday morning. Less than seven months after undergoing Lisfranc surgery on his left foot, Brown is finally ready to show Baltimore the explosive play-making ability that led to over 2,400 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns over two seasons at the University of Oklahoma.

“He was exciting to watch in college, and he’s going to be exciting on the field,” wide receiver Chris Moore said Monday. “With somebody like that on the field, it helps everybody else. It spreads out the field; it makes everybody else get open. It’s going to be exciting to have him out there.”

Brown is expected to be brought along slowly in practices as he sees his first football action since the College Football Playoff semifinal last Dec. 29. The 26th overall pick in April’s draft injured his foot in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 1 and underwent surgery in January, sidelining him for the entire pre-draft process and spring workouts.

Despite Brown’s injury and a slight 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame, the Ravens were intrigued enough by his speed and athleticism to make him just the fourth wide receiver selected in the first round in team history. On the night Brown was drafted, general manager Eric DeCosta said he would “conservatively” be back for training camp, but a major key in his return will be how much soreness he feels while changing directions, which was considered the last hurdle for him to begin practicing.

Over the first five full-squad practices of training camp, Brown worked out on his own on a side field and observed from the sideline while waiting for final clearance from team doctors.

“They want to make sure that ‘this cut’ and ‘that cut’ don’t make him feel pain,” head coach John Harbaugh said last Thursday. “They’re probably erring on the side of caution to some degree.”

In Brown’s absence, third-round rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin has turned heads early in camp, making a number of plays against the first-team defense and looking like Baltimore’s best wide receiver. The Ravens envision the two adding considerable upside to a run-first offense led by second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson.

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