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Ravens News 8/12: Road warriors and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson: Quarterback, Redefined - Jenny Vrentas

Even before this year’s offseason program went virtual, Jackson was engrossing himself in film study. His Ravens coaches have praised his uncanny field vision, but he set out to amplify that by dissecting coverage disguises and quizzing himself on where he should go with the ball when he sees certain shifts and blitzes. “As he calls it, getting his Tom Brady on,” Harris says. In early June, Jackson gathered teammates in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.—before the NFLPA had advised against such practices—for a few days of group work, refining his deep balls and throws outside the numbers. Harris noticed that Jackson had a tendency last year to spring up on his toes, causing him to pass with too much arm and lose velocity—an issue that especially showed up on those outside-the-numbers throws. They worked on keeping his cleats on the ground, forcing him to use his lower body and generate the necessary power on those more difficult deliveries.

“I was wrong. Simple as that,” Polian says now. “I didn’t see what [then-Baltimore GM] Ozzie [Newsome] and John [Harbaugh] saw. They got past the idea that you can’t have a running quarterback—a guy whose game is a combination of throwing and running. They recognized that you could do that if the guy had enough shiftiness, enough ability to make tacklers miss, that he wasn’t exposing himself to a lot of big hits.” Polian adds, “The paradigm has changed, no question about it.”

“The swagger that he plays with, and the swagger he has on and off the field, that’s something that isn’t super traditional for the quarterback position,” right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., part of Jackson’s draft class, said in January. “As a Black quarterback, he represents a lot. It’s something that we talked about. … He’s opened so many doors.”

PFF Rankings: The NFL’s top 15 tight ends ahead of the 2020 NFL season - Ben Linsey

5. MARK ANDREWS, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Efficiency isn’t all that matters. The ability to draw targets is a skill in itself, and no tight end drew targets on a higher percentage of their routes (32%) than Andrews this past season. Part of that had to do with the fact that Baltimore lacked pass-catching weapons, but a lot of credit should go to Andrews for his ability to create open throws for Lamar Jackson and take advantage of the passes that came his way. His 2.89 receiving yards per route run ranked behind only George Kittle on the year, and he was dominant out of the slot. Andrews’ 47 receptions, 698 yards and five receiving touchdowns out of the slot led all tight ends in 2019.

He’s a big target who routinely plucks balls out of the air in the middle of the field. With his 24th birthday coming in September, he’s part of a young offensive core with a bright future in Baltimore.

With No Preseason Games, Practices Will Answer Many Questions - Clifton Brown

“We will hit more in practice,” Harbaugh said, “We won’t hit as much overall, because we won’t have those preseason games. That’s where most of those live reps come. So, it won’t be overall as much hitting, so to speak, but we’ll have more in practice than we normally do.”

However, Harbaugh is planning more game situation drills in practice to prepare younger players for the regular season games. But without preseason games, younger players will not have the opportunity to shine in preseason games like rookies of the past. That will make it tougher for undrafted rookies to make the 53-man roster, even though at least one undrafted rookie has made the Ravens’ Week 1 roster for 16 straight years.

“Those guys have been put in a tough spot,” Harbaugh said. “The toughest spot is the 320 players (around the NFL) who got released before they ever got any kind of a chance. You feel worse for those guys. At least the guys who are here have an opportunity.”

Baltimore Ravens torch passing: Five veterans who could cede playing time to rookies this season - Aaron Kasinitz

G D.J. Fluker

Like Wolfe, Fluker is a newcomer to the Ravens’ roster who hopes to hold down a starting spot. He’s the early favorite to win Baltimore’s right guard job because of his experience; the 29-year-old Fluker has made 88 starts over his seven year NFL career with the Chargers, Giants and Seahawks.

But the Ravens want to foster competition on the interior of the offensive line, and they have a slew of young players to provide it, including mid-round rookies Tyre Phillips (Mississippi State) and Ben Bredeson (Michigan). Second-year professional Ben Powers and a couple undrafted rookies are in the mix, too.

So Fluker’s margin for error in training camp is small. And even if he wins a starting spot, the rookies could push coaches to consider a mid-season change by making quick and progress in their development.

NFL betting 2020: Unpacking the great unknown of home-field advantage during a pandemic, and what we do know - R.J. White

Road warriors

The Ravens weren’t bad at home like some of the other teams in this category, they were just awesome on the road, where they beat teams by scores of 59-10 (Dolphins in Week 1), 49-13 (Bengals in Week 10) and 45-6 (Rams in Week 12). They did destroy the Texans at home 41-7 and added a blowout home win over the Jets 42-21, but for the most part, Baltimore was unstoppable on the road. The three years prior, they’ve shown to be a better team at home, so I’m not getting carried away with their adjustment despite the team checking in with the second-lowest wHFA in the league.