The Ravens concluded their mandatory minicamp practices Thursday, their final official team activity until training camp starts in mid July. There was an emphasis on goal line passing drills with a major part of the practice spent with rotating 7-on-7 from the five yard line.
For all the talk of how much speed the Ravens have put together this offseason, they also possess some giant red-zone targets. Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, Seth Roberts and Jaleel Scott all impressed, hauling in scores. Jaleel Scott looks noticeably leaner and more chiseled this offseason as opposed to last. It translated Thursday, as he rose above Brandon Carr and Anthony Averett on fades in back to back snaps to haul in contested touchdowns.
Mark Andrews was playing like a man possessed during the entirety of practice. He was fiery and competitive, jawing after catches on DeShon Elliott, then again on Kenny Young in the end-zone. Andrews slapped Young’s hands off of him after snagging a dart from Lamar Jackson, then spun the ball Steve Smith Sr. style and celebrated with teammates.
Andrews is an imposing matchup for any defender with his combination of size, quickness, route savvy and hands. He has an alpha-mentality and aggressively plucks the ball away from defenders.
Justice Hill split out wide on several occasions, hauling in a few passes from different places on the field. Gus Edwards also received a steady dosage of targets in mid field 7-on-7 drills, looking much more natural as a pass catcher than last season. He has noticeably slimmed down and gotten quicker.
Trace McSorley threw several accurate intermediate passes for completions into traffic, while Robert Griffin III seemed a tad trigger-shy, often opting to scramble instead of passing the ball.
The UDFA to watch offensively is Boise St. product Sean Modster, who has received praise from teammates on both sides of the ball throughout the week. Modster gets to his spots quickly, and plays the boundary extremely well.
His combination of suddenness, body control and hands has resulted in steady catches throughout the week. That trend continued Thursday, as teammates were exchanging high-fives with him and yelling, “Yeah 1-4! Go get it!” He’s certainly a rookie to watch.
There were far less balls hitting the ground in general on Thursday, which is always a sign that the offense has found their rhythm. Maurice Canady and Jimmy Smith both hauled in interceptions, and Marlon Humphrey forced countless incompletions at the last moment, working through the arms and hands of receivers who appeared to come away with tough catches initially.
The secondary’s speed and range is incredible, noticeably improved from the past few seasons (although the regular season is still far away). Earl Thomas was running through the motions, and pulled up short to prevent injuries or contact, but it was easy to see he hasn’t lost his nose for the football. Tony Jefferson was moving all around the slot, box, and deep halves. He figures to take on more of a swiss-army knife role in 2019, more reminiscent of his days in Arizona.
DeShon Elliott was playing deep half, or single-high frequently, it’s easy to see why teammates have been raving about him throughout OTA and minicamp sessions. In preseason and throughout his time at Texas he was an imposing tackler, which coupled with his range, gives the Ravens yet another weapon in the secondary.
Jermaine Eluemunor was taking the majority of first-team reps at left guard as Alex Lewis continues to rehabilitate from his off-season shoulder surgery. Eluemunor has been shaky throughout his time in Baltimore, but seems much quicker mentally entering his third year.
Lamar Jackson seemingly has packed muscle onto his once stick-like frame, and his confidence is evident in year two. Marshal Yanda attested to Lamar’s command of the huddle, which seems much stronger than in his rookie season.
Perhaps Jackson’s two greatest strengths as a passer: his ability to buy time, and to keep his eyes downfield while finding real estate. He continued that theme Thursday, often rolling out a few steps to open up passing lanes, then firing darts to his targets. The 22-year-old passer was visibly his own biggest critic, smacking his hands and shaking his head after sailing a pass a few yards past Chris Moore down the sideline.
Overall, the practice was rather high tempo. Music blasted, horns blared and clocks were constantly running. Within a minutes time, three groups for 7-on-7 drills would complete plays, keeping the tempo rapid.
New wide receivers coach and passing-game coordinator David Culley ran a few drills for passers and receivers, staying constantly engaged with the skill-positions. He directed a drill where the passers would drop back, roll for a few steps, then fire a crossing route or slant route to receivers in the end zone. It was the kind of pass you see Drew Brees routinely score on near the goal-line.
There are a ton of new faces, from Mark Ingram, to Earl Thomas and Seth Roberts. Despite the unfamiliar, it was a LOUD practice. Words of encouragement, celebration, and communication pre-snap were a constant. The Ravens need loud practices to be a cohesive unit on each side of the ball. Patrick Onwuasor took all first-team ‘Mike’ reps, and was constantly lining players up, barking out directions, then flowing to the football.
Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta were parked tucked away near the famous golf cart, viewing the practice in entirety. Their eyes were glued to the field, notes being taken, and constantly conversing. Ozzie is still clearly very invested. O.J. Brigance was also in attendance, just watching from a distance.
The overall takeaways from Thursday’s mini-camp:
- High tempo practices— the few times that John Harbaugh, Greg Roman or David Culley stopped play to teach, it was quick, players were at full attention, then play immediately resumed. The Ravens are seeking to make the most out of these early practices.
- Communication— the defense was constantly pointing to assignments and relaying calls between levels. The first team secondary was most actively doing so, obviously, but even the UDFA and backups were constantly talking. The best defenses are made of the best communicators, so it was an encouraging sight to see.
- Competition— receivers and defensive backs were chirping at one another, and there was an abundance of encouragement among same-side peers. The energy level was high, this team is hungry to get better.
- Lamar Jackson is improving— the second-year quarterback is starting to fire on all cylinders. No stranger to scrutiny or being put under a microscope, Jackson seems more confident than ever. The Heisman Trophy winner is starting to click with receivers. Confidence in the new offensive system is also evident. He stated that he will be working into July before training camp starts with his backs and receivers, something fans have begged for year after year.
Photography was limited for the entirety of practice, but there have been some great clips and interviews throughout the week:
Lamar Jackson MIGHT work with throwing coach Tom House during the break before training camp. He could also work with Joshua Harris again, and plans to get his receivers together, whether in Florida or Maryland.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) June 13, 2019
Ravens minicamp just concluded. Strong finish for Lamar Jackson and offense, especially in short red zone. Probably offenses most efficient practice of offseason.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) June 13, 2019
Another day, another TD for Ravens TE Mark Andrews. He caught a pass in the end zone on Thursday, increasing his red-zone TDs from Lamar Jackson to four in the three-day minicamp.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) June 13, 2019
Coach Harbaugh really pleased with what he's seen from Peanut, Chris Board and Kenny Young: pic.twitter.com/FZgXDqY4AD— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 13, 2019
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The number one offseason topic for the @ravens is the development of @new_era8 as a passer. Every throw he makes in OTA’s, mini camp, training camp, preseason etc. will be scrutinized. However, the easiest way to project his future is to look at his past. These throws show some of Lamar’s potential as a passer. • Everyone knows the two big plays to Mark Andrews down the sideline, but these throws demonstrate Lamar’s vision, understanding of down and distance, time, situation etc. • When Lamar keeps a wide throwing base and stays calm, he delivers strikes. His accuracy will improve with practice. Practice comes with reps. Reps come with time. Spending an entire offseason running with the ones will greatly help Lamar. He will go through the motions. There won’t be any trick packages just for him. The entire offense is going to be catered to his strengths and weaknesses. • Lamar needs to improve on timing and pace in pass plays. Sometimes (such as on rollouts or bootlegs) Lamar gets ahead of the play. He can be in a hurry to get to his spot, but there’s a timing aspect of selling the ball fake, then getting to your spot as the receiver gets to theirs. This also happens on short, quick, outside throws such as screens. He needs to understand WHEN to throw the screen. Once blockers are set up. Should he lead the receiver? Or is the receiver stationary? • In Greg Roman offenses (2011-2014 with kaepernick and the 49ers 2015-2016 with Tyrod Taylor and the Bills) he has called 50-55% rushing plays. His quarterbacks are between 2950-3400 yards passing, 17-23 TD, 7-11 INT, completing 59-63% of their passes. If Lamar is around 3000 yards passing, 20 TD, 10 INT, this offense should be quite tough to stop. • Jackson completed 58.4% of his passes last year (higher than Darnold, Allen or Rosen). His QB rating when trailing was 120. On 1&10 it was 118. When the ravens had the lead it was an abysmal 73. • ***more videos to come soon regarding where Lamar needs to improve*** • @nfl @ravenshq @ravens.network @ravensrecap @ravensnewsdaily @ravensfan.network @ravenstribune @ravensaccess @ravensdistrict @ravensarea @ravensnewsdaily @ravensarea #Ravens #ravensnation #ravensflock
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Got to cover the last day of mini camp today— Lamar and Hollywood we’re chatting whenever there was a break. Goofing around trying to hit the crossbar with Snead and RGIII— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) June 13, 2019
Lamar looked extremely sharp in red zone 7 on 7, throwing countless goal line strikes. Thread to follow pic.twitter.com/Nj7ewipmEj