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Ravens News 6/24: Balling Out and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Q&A with Ravens CB Jimmy Smith: ‘I absolutely will not play with another team’ - Jeff Zrebiec

You took a different approach to free agency this year. You re-signed with the Ravens before the offseason even started. What went into that decision, and was it impacted at all by how the previous offseason went?

It definitely was. I didn’t like being out there like that, and I passed up more money (from the Ravens) the first time to eventually take less money. This year, I was like, “I know I want to be here, so let me not play games.” Obviously, I know I’m not going to be one of the two starters, but I know I have a role on this team. I’m comfortable with that, so it was easy for me to sign back again.

You’ve been here in Baltimore and you know the obsession with the receiver position. You’ve been around these guys all offseason. What are your impressions of the new-look wide receiver group?

I think we have tremendous speed at wide receiver right now. The young guy, (Rashod) Bateman, has been impressive. Sammy Watkins, we all know what type of athlete he is. And adding Marquise (Brown) in there with Mark Andrews, those are four legitimate weapons. We get them the ball and we’re going to win games. We shouldn’t have the last-ranked passing offense in the league with those guys.

Mark Andrews Says Watkins and Bateman ‘Balling Out’ - Todd Karpovich

“Just being out there with obviously Sammy, Rashod, and a couple of the other guys, the new young guys, those guys are balling out,” Andrews said. “The deep threat, the stretching the field, making plays, catching the ball, everyone is incredibly locked in. Just the whole energy around this program right now is awesome. Everyone is locked in.

“Everyone is moving on the same page and working toward the same goal. We’re trying to be the best team that we can be, and our pass game is looking really good, to be honest with you. So, I’m excited about it.

“Those young guys are balling out, man,” Andrews said. “The older guys are taking them under their wing and showing them the ropes. So, it’s been great to see. The pass game has been looking really good, so it’s awesome.”

Sizing Up the Ravens’ Biggest Position Competitions - Clifton Brown

No. 3 Tight End

Tight ends are heavily used in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s system, and at least five players are competing to be the No. 3 tight end – fifth-round rookie Ben Mason, Josh Oliver, Tony Poljan, Eric Tomlinson and Eli Wolf. Jacob Breeland hasn’t really been part of the mix yet, unable to get onto the field while still recovering from a college knee injury.

All of the potential No. 3 tight ends have different strengths and weaknesses as blockers, receivers and special teamers. The competition depends not only how they perform, but on how they would strengthen the 53-man roster while backing up Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle.

Oliver has flashed as a receiver during OTAs and minicamps, while Mason and Poljan are physical players expected to excel once the pads come on. Harbaugh likes the fact he has plenty of choices for the No. 3 tight end, and that so many of them are showing him things.

“I’m not too worried about our tight end situation, they look good out there so far,” Harbaugh said.

How did DeShon Elliott Fare as Earl Thomas’ Replacement? - Benjamin Solak

Elliott simply does not play with the same range and coverage instincts that Thomas does, which took some of the gas out of the Ravens’ blitz packages. They also got flat better at rushing the passer—Matt Judon had a good year; Tyus Bowser emerged; Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell joined the team—but their blitz rate dropped more than 10% to 44.1%—still league-leading, but no longer totally insane. They needed more numbers in coverage.

Elliott’s an effective run defender in that he plays with physicality, has decent size, and is willing and able to lay the wood and break down for space tackles. When the Ravens play with their two-high shells and let Elliott and Clark play like quarters safeties, you really see the potential Elliott has here as a run defender.

In a contract year, another strong season of Elliott likely demands a contract extension from the Ravens, at a moderate price tag—and appropriately so. He’s a great return on a sixth-round pick and fits the Ravens’ philosophy on defense. But I’m not sold that he can be their deep safety of the future, especially if free safety is the last remaining position of impact left unfilled on the Ravens’ defense.

Ranking the NFL’s top 2021 duos: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams help Packers edge Chiefs atop list of 32 teams - Cody Benjamin

12. Ravens (QB Lamar Jackson, CB Marlon Humphrey)

It feels wrong to have a duo with Jackson outside of the top 10, but you’ll see how deadly so many of these pairings are below. Humphrey is an ascending young No. 1 on the outside (who could be swapped with Ronnie Stanley, if you prefer a top OT).

PFF50: The 50 best players in the NFL right now - Sam Monson

29. CB MARLON HUMPHREY, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Humphrey doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because of his role within the Baltimore defense and the things they ask him to do precisely because he is their best coverage player. Over the past two seasons, only Xavien Howard has a higher PFF coverage grade when in single coverage. Humphrey has achieved that despite lining up in the slot on 58.8% of his snaps in that time, a position that often leads to far more coverage losses.