The first week of Ravens training camp was an eventful one - four total practices, including the annual open-to-fans practice at M&T Bank Stadium, and no shortage of interesting storylines, developments, and unfortunately, injuries. It’s too early to determine many pending questions, although we can takeaway numerous points from the past few days.
Here are five takeaways from the team’s opening week of TC.
1) Chris Board has the inside track on the the starting LB job
The “Chris Board Hype Train” has been building steam all offseason and following the commencing week of training camp, it continues to gain momentum. Board impressed throughout OTA’s and minicamp and after seeing a lot of reps with the starters, he’s lined up alongside Patrick Onuwasor at linebacker with the first-team defense. Many have suggested Board will be the next UDFA linebacker to make an impact in Baltimore, following in the footsteps of Bart Scott, Jameel McClain, and Zach Orr, among others.
Board has been more impressive than Kenny Young thus far, his primary competitor for the second starting linebacker spot. It’s too early to count out the latter just yet and regardless of who starts, both players will have big roles. Still, by all accounts, Board has the edge over Young at this current moment in time.
It's just Day 1, but second-year undrafted ILB Chris Board spent a lot of time running with the starters alongside Patrick Onwuasor. Board seems to be ahead of Kenny Young for the other starting spot. Coaches love Board's speed.— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) July 25, 2019
2) Miles Boykin and Jaleel Scott are impressing
The Ravens have a group of young receivers and are banking on at least a few of them stepping up in training camp to secure their places on the roster. So far, rookie Miles Boykin and 2017 fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott have been arguably the most impressive players at the receiver position. Scott looked good in minicamp and has continued to make plays through the first four TC practices. After missing his entire rookie season with injury, he’s looked spry and flashed impressive catching ability.
While this year’s third-round selection Miles Boykin isn’t on the roster bubble like Scott, he’s been just as impressive, if not more. After a shaky start a few days ago, Boykin has looked far more comfortable and dominated Saturday night’s practice. He caught essentially every pass thrown his way and made highlight plays against the first-string defense. As of now, Boykin looks like he may challenge for a starting role and Scott has the clear edge over other receivers, such as Jordan Lasley, for the fifth and/or sixth spot on the depth chart.
3) Mark Andrews primed for a big season
Everything we’ve heard surrounding second-year tight end Mark Andrews this offseason has been extremely positive, and training camp did nothing but further the praise. Andrews was the team’s most impressive pass-catcher and showcased a strong rapport with quarterback Lamar Jackson, which we saw last season and earlier in OTA’s and minicamp. While he won’t be an every-down player with Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle eating up snaps at tight end, Andrews is clearly the best receiver out of the three and appears primed to build upon his solid rookie season - 34 receptions, 552 yard, and three touchdowns.
4) Offensive line still lacks clarity
The offensive line has been a hot topic of discussion this offseason, particularly regarding the competition at the left guard position. The first week of training camp did little to remove the uncertainty surrounding Baltimore’s offensive line and actually may have made things murkier. After failing his original conditioning test, second-year right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. ceded way for veteran swingman James Hurst to run the starters. Even after returning to action, Brown still lined up with the second-team on Saturday and Sunday.
It could merely be that the Ravens are allowing Brown to work his way back into playing shape, but it’s certainly a development to keep an eye on. Brown has been hyped up as a breakout candidate this season and potential Pro Bowl candidate, so it’d be surprising if Hurst seriously challenged for the starting RT job. At left guard, it’s been rookie Ben Powers whose occupied the starting job through four practices, not Jermaine Eleumunor, who ran with the 1’s in minicamp. Like Brown, Eleumunor also failed his conditioning test.
In summary, there’s a lot of moving pieces on the offensive line.
5) Lamar Jackson appears much-improved
All eyes have been on Lamar Jackson thus far during training camp and the early returns have been positive. Jackson hasn’t been perfect, but based on everything we’ve seen from him through four practices, he looks sharper as a passer. Jackson’s mechanics appear to be more fluid and consistent, his spiral has tightened up, and he’s delivering accurate passes to his targets. Jackson’s development may be the most important factor to the team’s success, so these are definitely good signs.
Will he continue to go through some ups and downs? Surely, but there’s no denying Jackson looks good - much better than he did at this time last season. Something else Jackson is doing well isn’t related to his quarterback ability - handling pressure and embracing leadership. Jackson hasn’t let the immense pressure and critique surrounding him in the public eye affect him, and he seems to be improving as a leader, too.
Watch here as he drops a dime to Willie Snead IV: