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Ravens News 8/26: Emotional practice and more

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens are going to miss Earl Thomas more than everybody realizes - Steven Ruiz

Thomas was really in a league of his own when covering a targeted receiver. According to Next Gen Stats, opposing quarterbacks produced a Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) of -24.9% when targeting Thomas in 2019. That led the league by over three percentage points. According to Sports Info Solutions, plays targeting Thomas resulted in a loss of 12.9 Expected Points, which ranked second among safeties in 2019. His 23.1% allowed success rate ranked first.

Per Sports Info Solutions, Baltimore finished fourth in EPA allowed on throws to the middle of the field, which tend to be the most valuable plays in football. Thomas’ presence played a large role in that success.

With Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale leading the league in Cover 0 blitz calls, Thomas was forced to play more man coverage than he had in his NFL career. It wasn’t an issue, as Thomas finished with the Pro Football Focus’ 12th best coverage grade among defensive backs. He even showed some ability to navigate traffic and cover receivers on the perimeter.

There isn’t another safety quite like Thomas, so his departure will leave a gaping hole in the Baltimore secondary — and one that won’t be filled with DeShon Elliott or a cornerback convert like some have suggested. And without No. 29 back there, Martindale will almost certainly have to tone down his aggressive play-calling and go with a more conservative approach.

Ravens Make Brave, Costly Decision, Placing Culture Over Talent, Releasing Earl Thomas - Pete Smith

The culture and chemistry of the locker room must improve as a result of this move to justify this decision. That might help improve the play of the team overall, which is difficult to document. It’s far easier to single out the difference between the play of Elliott and Thomas.

It’s difficult to ignore the element of pressure as well. The Ravens went 14-2 last year, sent a dozen players to the Pro Bowl and were dispatched by a more physical Tennessee Titans team in the divisional round of the playoffs. They are carrying heavy expectations this year to not only win in the postseason but win the Super Bowl. That pressure might have increased the stress level, which brought this situation to a boil that much faster.

As brave a stand as this was to take by the Ravens, nothing guarantees it won’t backfire and potentially have massive consequences in a season where their only goal is to win the Super Bowl. The locker room is critically important and achieving that peace and harmony within it, to the extent possible, but it takes talent to win. Maybe they know something about DeShon Elliott that others don’t or have a plan to acquire another one, but this becomes a major focus in a season where the rest of the division is trying to topple the Ravens, starting with the Browns in week one.

Derek Wolfe ‘finally home’ with Ravens - Shawn Stepner

“I’m finally home. My teammates have welcomed me with open arms,” said new Raven Derek Wolfe.

The 6-foot-5, 285 lbs. defensive end was signed as a free agent from the Broncos in the offseason. Head Coach John Harbaugh said he’s been better than advertised.

“He’s really having a great camp,” said Harbaugh. “Tremendous guy, big time leader. Just everything that we were looking for he’s bringing to the table.”

“These guys are ready to win,” said Wolfe. “They want to win a championship and they are willing to do whatever it is to win a championship.”

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have a guy like Calais on the team,” said Wolfe. “Every single day I pick his brain. He picks my brain and we compete with each other. It’s fun to have competition.”

“That’s how I learned to play defense, was from watching the Ravens and how they played flying to the ball, ripping the ball out, physical, being nasty and gritty and very humble,” said Wolfe. “That’s the kind of football I like to play.”

Practice Report: Highly Competitive Day in Pads - Clifton Brown

Proche had two impressive catches and ran crisp patterns. He made a nice change of direction to shake free on a corner route, and broke wide open across the middle to catch a pass from Robert Griffin III.

Young was glued to receivers, breaking up several passes and making it difficult for any receiver he covered. On a 50-50 ball between Young and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Young came up the winner when he soared high to get a piece of the football.

Willie Snead IV made three nice catches on medium-range passes, the kind of plays that translate into first downs. Snead reported to camp about seven pounds lighter and it has produced the added quickness he was looking for.

Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser spent a lot of time in the offensive backfield and deflected one pass by Lamar Jackson. Bowser played with force from start to finish and joined Young as a defensive standout.

Baltimore Ravens practice recap, Day 8: Emotions run high for wide receivers - Aaron Kasinitz

At the end of practice, wide receiver Miles Boykin leapt over cornerback Anthony Averett to haul in a 2-yard touchdown catch. Boykin popped to his feet and flung the ball about 25 yards in the air to celebrate.

Third-round rookie defensive end Justin Madubuike showed off his muscle in a couple one-on-one pass-rush drills by driving back different offensive linemen. He also got flattened at one point when offensive tackle Orlando Brown blocked him. So some good and some bad from a promising young player.

Offensive lineman Ben Bredeson stonewalled fellow rookie Broderick Washington in a one-on-one pass rush drill and earned shouts of encouragement from teammates.

RB Gus Edwards — Like he often does, Edwards ran hard Tuesday and bolted through several holes.