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Ravens News 8/1: Receiving corps ranking, podium notes and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens need to be careful with the razzle-dazzle - Mike Preston

I’m sure Mornhinweg will come up with some razzle-dazzle during the course of the regular season, but I can’t see quarterback Joe Flacco running a lot of run-pass-option plays (RPOs).

A team always plays to the strength of its star players, and Flacco is basically a straight drop back quarterback who thrives in the pocket. I can’t see the Ravens putting him at risk with plays off the perimeter.

I like the way Mornhinweg is playing his hand. Once Jackson steps on the field with Flacco, there will be a lot of “alert” calls from defensive players awaiting some kind of trick play. That’s good to keep them guessing.

But I’m also guessing the Ravens won’t have as many as some might suspect.

Preston’s point is valid. However, sprinkling in a few deceptive plays per game could certainly diversify a formerly predictable offense. The key will be striking a balance between keeping Flacco healthy and keeping defenses guessing.

NFL receiving corps rankings: All 32 teams entering 2018 - Michael Renner

23. BALTIMORE RAVENS

Yards per route run as a unit, rank: 1.17 (27th)

Despite the low ranking, the Ravens are one of the most improved receiving corps in the league. With Mike Wallace as the top option a season ago, it’s hard to get much worse. Their top four in targets could all be new faces this season as they signed Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree, John Brown and drafted tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason. While neither of those players earned a grade higher than 71.4 a season ago, it’s still a fairly massive upgrade all-around.

For comparison within the division, PFF ranks the Steelers receivers fifth, the Browns new-look group 6th and the Bengals as the 11th best corps in the league. The Ravens have unquestionably bolstered the depth of their receiving corps. Even if injuries arise, they are basically guaranteed to field a more talented unit than the Ben Watson, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore and Griff Whalen corps that faced the Vikings last season.

Most Eagerly Anticipated Preseason in Ravens History - John Eisenberg

This year, though, there’s a different feel. Don’t faint, but I detect an actual buzz over what surely qualifies as the most eagerly anticipated preseason in Ravens history.

Can that be a thing? I guess so, because here we are.

Even with Head Coach John Harbaugh saying Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, will be “like a practice,” it’s going to be close to must-see TV for Baltimore fans. And I expect that to be the case for the rest of the Ravens’ preseason.

Why the ramped-up interest? That’s obvious, isn’t it? The Ravens turned the local football scene upside down when they selected quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft in April, and after months of practices and classroom work, he’ll make his pro debut Thursday night. Then he’ll continue to take snaps throughout August.

Drafting the electrifying Lamar Jackson is exactly the ‘shot in the arm’ this franchise needed following their longest postseason drought since 1999. The rookie quarterback has helped re-energize a fanbase that had grown a bit apathetic, yet that goodwill could subside if Jackson is watching a struggling offense from the bench this season.

News & Notes 7/31: Robert Griffin III’s Advice to Lamar Jackson on Running and Protecting Himself - Ryan Mink

Perhaps nobody knows that tightrope walk better than Robert Griffin III, whose health problems began early in his career when he took a few too many hard knocks. Thus, Griffin has talked to the fellow Heisman Trophy winner about what he should expect at this level.

“What I tried to tell him, mostly, is that in this league, things happen faster. It’s not that he can’t run. He just has to be smart when he does run,” Griffin said.

“I feel like he’s my little brother, but I’m not going to say, as his big brother, ‘Don’t do this.’ He’s going to have to learn some things on his own. I think he’ll figure it out pretty quickly and he’ll still be the dynamic player that he is.”

Griffin admitted that Jackson was a more prolific runner than he was in college – though Griffin smiled and said he has faster straight-line speed. Jackson has a catalogue of cutbacks, spins moves and other jukes that made him a nightmare to tackle in college.

“His natural instinct when he’s running is that nobody is going to tackle him, no one can tackle him,” Griffin said. “There’s some guys in this league that can tackle him, and he’ll figure that out.”

Griffin is well aware of the risk associated with scrambling in the NFL. His career trajectory was completely altered in 2012 when former Raven Haloti Ngata chased him well downfield and delivered a knee buckling hit. This play probably changed the Ravens franchise trajectory as well... Kirk Cousins replaced Griffin to lead Washington to an overtime victory in that Beltway battle, Jim Caldwell replaced Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator the next morning and Baltimore hoisted the Lombardi trophy a couple months later.