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Ravens Training Camp: Observations 8/12

Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Absentees of today’s practice included:

Earl Thomas, Marquise Brown, Seth Roberts, Marshal Yanda, Matthew Judon, Tavon Young, Iman Marshall and a few other third team players.

Don’t be alarmed by Hollywood getting rest. The Ravens drafted Brown and immediately planned his entire rehab from day one. Rest is essential for full rehabilitation. The Ravens are wise to continue letting Brown get rest days so that his foot isn’t overwhelmed and can keep gaining strength. Hayden Hurst rushed back from the same injury last season and didn’t fully recover until the offseason. Coach Harbaugh addressed the media following practice and stated essentially what I’ve mentioned. It’s part of the process. Moving along:

The day began with split field one-on-one passing drills. I focused on the backs against the linebackers. Justice Hill has torched backers all summer. Hill’s route running paired with his quickness and speed present a nightmare matchup for any defender. Hill gains separation when he breaks his routes off with ease, although he could use a little extra time on the JUGS machine.

International slot player Christopher Ezeala worked UDFA E.J. Ejiya twice downfield, hauling in deep passes. Ezeala has shown great improvement from when he began practicing with the Ravens.

Tyler Ervin has been impressive all camp. Fellow BB contributor Vasilis Lericos and I both think that Tyler Ervin could be a nice addition to the roster this fall. Ervin reeled in two deep passes from Lamar Jackson, taking them both for scores. The former Texan later torched the defense in 11-on-11 on a wheel route down the sideline thrown by Trace Mcsorley for a 50 yard score.

Lamar Jackson and the first team offense got off to a hot start Monday morning. Jackson completed his first eight passes by my count, before finally throwing a ball away. The middle of practice saw plenty of sloppy snaps, but Jackson was on fire in the red zone. Jackson threw numerous touchdown passes, getting the ball out quickly.

Miles Boykin worked exclusively with the first team and received a major target share yet again. Boykin had the catch of the day during goal to go seven-on-seven passing drills. The mixed bag of defenders blanketed quick hitters as Lamar Jackson scanned before firing an absolute bullet that appeared to be too wide for Boykin. Boykin lunged with cat like reflexes and quick feet extending his long reach outside of the chalk while dragging his toes to haul in the touchdown pass. Teammates and fans alike erupted. This marked Boykin’s second red zone touchdown of the practice.

Boykin caught passes all over the field and on countless defenders on Monday, continuing his meteoric training camp rise. The boy-kin’ catch, and his hype is real. He shows the ability to vary route speed, chew up grass on his releases, make contested catches and get separation. Comeback routes are particularly fruitful for Boykin.

He does a good job gaining real estate with long strides before sinking his hips and getting shockingly low (especially for his size) out of breaks. His outstanding three cone and shuttle times directly correleate into these routes, as his footwork is rapid and pristine.

Michael Floyd had a nice day, hauling in a few red zone touchdowns. He made an incredible leaping catch down the left sideline, rising above a defender whose coverage garnered a flag. Floyd has quietly had a nice camp, although he hasn’t received many first team snaps.

The usual suspects, Mark Andrews and Willie Snead remained reliable. Andrews nearly broke Tony Jefferson’s ankles in goal line one-on-one passing drills. Jefferson took outside leverage, so Andrews attacked Jefferson vertically, head faked outside to open his hips, then exploded back inside causing Jefferson to fall. Andrews has given Jefferson fits all camp long.

Nick Boyle reeled in five targets by my count. One was a Trace McSorley dart above two defenders past the first down marker, where Boyle rose up and plucked a ball from the air which easily could’ve escaped him. His continued work in the passing game shows the versatility of Boyle and the tight end group.

UDFA rookie tight end Charles Scarff also has continued to look the part of a professional caliber tight end. Scarff has shown great hands and savvy for finding soft spots with the second and third team offenses. A practice squad spot surely awaits the former Delaware Blue Hen.

The defense forced numerous incompletions. Marlon Humphrey recorded what would’ve been a pick-six for the second straight day. During goal line seven-on-seven, Trace McSorley threw into a tight window intended for Jaleel Scott on a three step slant. Humphrey broke on the ball, then corralled it and raced down the sideline with only McSorley to beat.

Anthony Levine followed up in open field 11-on-11 with a pick-six of his own. The first team offense lined up in a 2x2 spread look. Jackson stared down a five-and-out route from Mark Andrews and Levine saw it coming a mile away. The defense erupted when ‘Co-Cap’ snagged the ball, as he’s universally loved and respected among his peers.

McSorley made a few nice throws into tight windows, but also missed some easy reads. Near the end of practice Trace found Jaleel Scott on a deep slant, who plucked the ball and burned the defense for a 40 yard score.

Former AAF standout Terrell Bonds broke up a back-line lob from Trace McSorley, which prompted high-fives and celebration with Bennett Jackson. Secondary coach Chris Hewitt wasn’t impressed, stepping forward and exclaiming for Bonds to “Turn the ball over! C’mon, man!” Hewitt grabbed his head in frustration and continued to grind on Bonds.

Otaro Alaka continues to receive second team reps at inside linebacker, and appears to be getting mentally quicker by the day. Jaylon Ferguson also has earned more snaps following a standout performance against Jacksonville. Ferguson sets the edge well, and shows good understanding for run concepts. He is somewhat one dimensional with his bull-rush, but it continues to drive lineman back collapsing the pocket daily.

Lamar Jackson continued to look poised with his mechanics. One of Jackson’s best throws of the day came from an RPO, where Jackson faked the handoff, looked to run, then saw Willie Snead gaining leverage on his man downfield. Jackson threw the ball to the defender’s back shoulder, allowing Snead to come back to the ball and rise above the defender on the sideline for a 16 yard completion.

Another solid throw came on a goal-to-go play action, where Jackson gave an excellent fake, turned, then lobbed the ball to the back pylon where (you guessed it) Miles Boykin dragged his toe for a score. Jackson threw four consecutive goal line touchdown passes at one point towards the end of practice, finishing strong.

Jackson seems to be key on his shoulder angle and non throwing hand recently when throwing the ball. He has tucked his non-throwing arm inside and flexes his non-throwing hand while pointing it towards his target. He’s let his shoulders open up and angled them more towards the sky, which allows his ball to get more air under it.

UDFA offensive lineman Patrick Mekari took a large portion of first team snaps at left guard. He seemed more fluid and technically sound with his hand placement than current starter Jermaine Eluemunor. Eluemunor allows defenders to get their hands into his chest plate easily and doesn’t have the aggressive attitude that offensive line coaches desire from a starter. He fails to seek contact when it isn’t brought to him.

Bradley Bozeman and James Hurst continued to rotate at right guard and left guard as well, as Marshal Yanda had the day off.

Ben Powers has been fully relegated to the second team it appears, as he didn’t make his way in with the starters. The Ravens coaching staff appears shaky with their left guard situation, as they should be. Hurst is too lethargic, Eluemunor isn’t refined, Powers is green but perhaps Mekari can inject himself into the starting lineup if he can follow up his strong performance against the Jaguars well.

It is my belief that the Ravens don’t currently roster the player that will start at the left guard spot come week one. With an offense that relies on controlling the line of scrimmage so heavily, they must find a viable option to anchor the spot next to Matt Skura, who has shown improvement, yet still has a long way to become effective.

Practice concluded with kick-off work. Coach Harbaugh orchestrated the kick-returners with a microscope, making adjustments after every rep. Harbaugh’s passion for the purest form of football, kick return, remains strong. Justice Hill, Cyrus Jones and Chris Moore took return duties. Harbaugh had Hill hold a ball in one hand and field kicks with his free hand to strengthen his kick fielding ability. Hill looked natural and is a logical choice at returner. This could spell trouble for Cyrus Jones’ shot at making the 53 man roster.

One final note is that Patrick Ricard continues to spend the majority of his time on the offensive side of the football. This is surprising considering how well Ricard has played defensively throughout camp. He recorded four tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection against the Jaguars, and I would like to see him get more snaps.

He’s a force as a fullback, but his role isn’t complicated to the point where he’s needed exclusively on offense. Allowing Ricard to develop could save a roster spot. Nick Boyle also can take reps in order to give Ricard time defensively.