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Ravens News 5/17: Rookie Observations and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Rookie Minicamp Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

Practice Report: 10 First Impressions of Ravens’ Rookie Class - Ryan Mink

You wouldn’t be able to tell that third-round cornerback Brandon Stephens has only been playing the position for two years after converting from running back. His backpedal looked smooth and he had no trouble turning and running with wide receivers (often Bateman) well. Stephens looks thickly built and worked exclusively at cornerback Saturday.

Fifth-round cornerback Shaun Wade made a fine diving pass breakup late in the practice. He has good length. Fifth-round pick Daelin Hayes was in the backfield a few times during Saturday’s session, showing good burst off the edge. He really soaks up coaching.

Keep an eye on undrafted safety Ar’Darius Washington out of TCU, who was around the ball a few times. He looks like he’s listed – at 5-foot-8, 176 pounds – but he’s got enough pop. Undrafted inside linebacker Barrington Wade (Iowa) made some plays too, though he had an interception bounce off his hands.

Top Ravens pick Rashod Bateman is ‘as advertised’ at rookie minicamp; two out with injuries - Jonas Shaffer

Tight end Eli Wolf, who spent part of last season on the practice squad, impressed with his hands and ability to get open. Near the end of one session, Bahar found him up the seam for a catch between undrafted rookie linebacker Barrington Wade and third-round pick Brandon Stephens, who lined up primarily at cornerback. He also ran a couple of out-breaking routes for short completions, including a catch against safety Ar’Darius Washington.

Outside linebacker Daelin Hayes had a standout day in 11-on-11 action. On a play-action drop-back, he dipped around undrafted tackle Adrian Ealy, a two-year starter and All-Big 12 Conference selection at Oklahoma, for a quarterback pressure. A few plays later, the fifth-round pick dropped a would-be interception over the middle after reading Bahar’s eyes as he rolled out and flashing to the ball.

Observations From Ravens 2021 Rookie Minicamp - Todd Karpovich

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, the 27th overall selection in the draft, was smooth running routes. He’s lean at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, so he might need to add some muscle heading into training camp. He fielded punts under the close scrutiny of coaches and that could be an option for him as a rookie. Bateman clearly has the talent to make a first-year impact.

Tylan Wallace, a fourth-round pick from Oklahoma State, also showed solid hands and confidence. The competition at wide receiver will be intriguing during training camp with seven players completing for possibly six spots.

Tight end Jake Breeland is continuing to rehab a knee injury he suffered at Oregon. Harbaugh is hopeful Breeland will be available for training camp.

Tight end/fullback Ben Mason, a fifth-round pick, didn’t practice because he has torn skin on the bottom of his feet because of a shoe issue. “It’ll grow back quickly, I’m sure, Harbaugh said.

Will Ravens’ Pass Rush Prevent a Deep Playoff Run? - Kyle Crabbs

It flies in the face of conventional wisdom and, without digging, letting Ngakoue walk may seem like an odd strategy for a Ravens defense that finished in the middle of the pack in pressure rate in 2020 (Pro Football Focus had them 18th in the NFL). But the role, pay, and production didn’t add up, period.

Baltimore has been the NFL’s most aggressive defense over the last two years, blitzing at a higher rate than any other team across the league. And those pressure looks often yield free runs at the quarterbacks. If you’re going to be replacing a viable run defender with prototypical size, length, and athleticism for the position, what better prospect to target for his exact role than Odafe Oweh out of Penn State?

The big knock on Oweh out of Penn State was that his pass rush plan wasn’t adequately developed—but those issues should be mitigated in the Ravens’ front, where free runs are available to him in Judon’s role given the blitz rate of Wink Martindale’s defense. And Oweh is comfortably a better athlete than Judon, too. Judon owned better size coming out of his respective draft, but has Oweh’s athletic profile owning a sizable advantage.

Ideally, yes. The Ravens would have more established firepower off the edge. But this defense isn’t dependent on such pressure anyway, they’ve led the league in five-plus man pressures in each of the last three seasons for a reason! So to circle back to the initial question, yes. Baltimore has enough in the pass rush department to make a deep postseason run. The changes to the rush room are notable, but they’re economically sound and certainly not devastating.

Predicting 2021 NFL division winners: Here’s a look at all eight, with confidence level for each - Jason La Canfora

AFC North – Cleveland Browns

Confidence level: 6.0

The Browns have the best roster in this division. They have the best OL, the best RB room, the best WR room and a very strong TE group. Kevin Stefanski was just what Baker Mayfield needed. And they spent the entire offseason throwing assets at their defense. Myles Garrett was playing like an MVP before he got COVID-19. The secondary has to be better. Could they use another capable pass rusher in the front seven? Yeah, but I bet they do something by the trade deadline. The Ravens will be right there with them, and for all the talk about Baltimore having the second-toughest schedule in the NFL, it sets up quite well for them. This is basically a coin toss for me, with the Browns getting the nod because the Ravens have no proven pass rusher on the roster right now. The Steelersare headed to Mike Tomlin’s first losing season and Big Ben is at the end, and the Bengals should focus on getting and keeping Joe Burrow healthy for a full season before anyone starts thinking about division titles there. I think the Cincy roster on paper was actually better a year ago (somehow).