Baltimore Ravens practice recap, Day 1: Patrick Queen settles in, Marquise Brown shines and more - Aaron Kasinitz
First-round rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen played with the starters Monday, often alongside L.J. Fort, and displayed the attributes that made him appealing to the Ravens. His natural acceleration stuck out on several plays when he planted his foot and dated toward ball-carriers. Queen, one of the lightest linebackers in the 2020 draft class, will need to show this year that he can shed NFL-caliber blocks and prove that he has the muscle to pile up tackles in the professional ranks. But at first glance, he moved like a ready-made starter Monday.
For much of the team drills, the Ravens’ heralded secondary provided stifling coverage. Cornerback Jimmy Smith looked especially sharp, at one point running stride for stride with receiver Jaleel Scott down the left sideline and swatting away a pass.
Another veteran defensive back, safety Earl Thomas, produced a memorable moment when he surged through the offensive line, pushed past Willie Snead and blew up a third-and-short running play in 11-on-11 drills. The 31-year-old Thomas looked healthy and explosives on that play.
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Now established and paid as a starting safety, Chuck Clark was active with a couple stiff hits during early 11-on-11 periods and a breakup of a pass intended for Willie Snead during a 7-on-7 drill. His football intellect and presence are invaluable for a defense built from the backside forward.
Despite rookie free agents being in a tough spot with no preseason games to showcase their talents, the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Eli Wolf moves well and made a couple good grabs. Someone must emerge as the No. 3 tight end, but Wolf made only 21 career receptions at Tennessee and Georgia.
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Lamar Jackson talked about improving on everything this offseason, but the MVP harped on his desire to make more big plays in the passing game. He showed some of that, including a good connection with top wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in the first padded practice. Jackson’s best pass was a 15-yard laser down the middle of the field that Brown caught in traffic between safeties Anthony Levine Sr. and DeShon Elliott. The MVP also hit Brown with a deep ball behind Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters in seven-on-seven drills.
Jackson also connected with veteran Willie Snead IV on a deep pass in which Snead made a great leaping catch in traffic. It’s clear that Jackson wants to take more shots this year.
Second-round running back J.K. Dobbins has lightning-fast feet. Everything he does seems to be at full speed, and he looks dangerous with the ball in his hands. Like the former No. 27, Ray Rice, Dobbins could be used in a variety of ways.
News & Notes: Matthew Judon Is Emphasizing Creating Turnovers - Clifton Brown
The defense has been outspoken about its desire to force more turnovers, and Judon is all-in. He obviously has the potential to create strip sacks, and had a career-high four last year. Judon also wants his first career interception.
“I got the best hands on the team, I just haven’t had the opportunities,” Judon said with a smile. “Sometimes on passes to the flats, I worry about just batting it down.
I’m going to try to turn those into turnovers, go ahead and pick it off. If I get a pick this year, it’s going for six.”
Judon is a complete player, an excellent pass rusher who is also strong against the run. He won’t be chasing stats this season, but he’ll be chasing the football, hoping for more sacks, more turnovers, and a Super Bowl victory at the end of the season.
“I wear many hats on this defense,” Judon said. “Whatever hat I got to put on for that play, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. I’m not a selfish guy when it comes to football.”
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BALTIMORE RAVENS: PLAYING FROM BEHIND
The Ravens are set up to dominate from the front. They crush teams, build sizeable leads and then lean on them hard until they crumble. By virtue of simply being better, the Ravens rarely find themselves trailing in games, but it hasn’t gone well when they have. When trailing over the past two seasons, Lamar Jackson’s PFF passing grade is just 62.2, which ranks 32nd out of 47 qualifiers and puts him behind the likes of Joe Flacco, Dwayne Haskins and Mitchell Trubisky.
Limiting it to just 2019 — where Jackson was markedly better overall as a passer — actually makes the grade worse (60.6). His rushing remains a huge factor, so it’s not as if his performance completely implodes when the Ravens find themselves in a hole, but he goes from being the highest-graded quarterback in the league when his team is in front to ranked in the 20s when they are trailing.
Jackson is already facing a narrative of not being able to win in the playoffs, and while I think that’s wildly off-base, it is a real issue that the Ravens are not built to thrive when trailing. Most of the time that isn’t a problem, but if that question gets asked of them in the playoffs, they’re going home unless they improve in that area.
If the Ravens’ playoff game against the Titans last season happens in a random Week 6 game, nobody even remembers it today. But it happened on the biggest stage and ended up partly defining their season. Jackson is a singular talent and one of the most difficult players in the league to defend. He made huge strides as a passer in Year 2, but Year 3 needs to see him take another leap in a specific area: when teams know he has to pass to eat into an unexpected deficit.