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Ravens News 5/31: Hurst impressing, QB target tendencies and more

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NCAA Football: Clemson at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Impressions and Other Ravens Thoughts After Small Sample Size - John Eisenberg

Watching practice last week, it was easy to see what they like so much about him.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Hurst was a huge target, but he also was fast and agile enough to get downfield and get open, and his hands were the surest of any tight end on the field. I was reminded of the succinct praise offered by Joe Hortiz, the Ravens’ director of college scouting, after Hurst was selected: “He catches everything.”

With its emphasis on two distinctly different skills – blocking and catching – tight end can be a tough position for rookies. It’s not always easy to carve out significant playing time. But the Ravens drafted Hurst, 25, for need, because they lacked a primary tight end. Their hope is he’ll be able to contribute right away, and if first impressions count for anything, they might get their wish.

If Hurst’s yards after the catch ability translates to the professional level, the passing offense should be much improved.

Metrics that Matter: Quarterbacks’ target tendencies - Scott Barrett

Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco were slight surprises, but both have benefited from some terrific pass-catching running backs throughout their respective careers (LaDanian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Ray Rice, and they’ve both had Danny Woodhead). Melvin Gordon ranked seventh among running backs in targets last year (76) and should again see heavy target totals this year – and especially now with Hunter Henry out of the picture. Woodhead saw only 37 total targets from Flacco and Rice hasn’t played in the NFL since 2013. Even without a strong stable of pass-catching running backs, Baltimore ranks second in running back targets over the past three years. Although Alex Collins was terrific as a runner last season, he wasn’t extensively used as a pass-catcher. Perhaps the team includes him more in that role next season, or, more likely, Javorius Allen resumes that role next year or cedes more passing snaps to Kenneth Dixon.

Joe Flacco targeted running backs on 24.1-percent of his throws last season, third most in the NFL. PFF also notes that Lamar Jackson threw to slot receivers or tight ends on 47.4 percent of his attempts at Louisville.

NFL set to welcome back several impactful players from injury in 2018 - Gordon McGuiness


From 2011 to 2016, Yanda produced a PFF grade of 90.0 or higher every season. That level of dominance is rare and when you combine Yanda’s power in the running game and his work in pass protection, where he allowed just six hurries from 611 pass-blocking snaps in 2016, it’s easy to see why his name is so often mentioned among the elite in the NFL.

The Ravens will welcome back their All-Pro guard in training camp. Marshal Yanda is truly elite.

Ravens waiting on young pass rushers to take big step forward - Jeff Zrebiec

The Ravens had 41 sacks last year, which was tied for 11th in the NFL. But the pass rush was inconsistent and disappeared at key moments late in the season.

However, Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said last week that he’s already seen some positive signs from Bowser and Tim Williams.

“They’re looking very good,” Williams said. “They’re coming out here, they’re playing fast. Like you said, last year they had a new playbook, and now this year they have another new playbook. So, they’re still learning, still getting better; they’re still rookies, kind of. But they’re doing well. They’re flying fast, they’re making plays and doing a lot of good things.”

The Ravens are hoping Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams can help starting edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Matt Judon stay fresh for the playoff push in December.