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Ravens News 8/10: Narrow AFCN Favorites and more

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NFL season projections 2021: Win-loss records, playoff and Super Bowl chances from Football Power Index - Seth Walder

The Ravens and Browns are contenders, but they hurt each other’s chances

The AFC North features two major Super Bowl threats in Baltimore and Cleveland. And while the effect isn’t dramatic, they would each be a little better off if the other weren’t around. The Ravens and Browns rank fourth and sixth in FPI rating — basically true talent level — but are fifth and seventh in chances to reach the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, respectively.

Baltimore is well balanced, with a projected offense and defense (and special teams!) that each ranks in the top 10.

As far as the division title is concerned, Baltimore is a narrow favorite over the Browns: 43% to 40%.

Ravens training camp observations on the Lamar Jackson-Mark Andrews connection, defensive penalties and Shaun Wade - Edward Lee

Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s first pass was broken up by cornerback Tavon Young, but then he connected on 15 consecutive throws during full-team and seven-on-seven exercises (excluding intentional spikes to stop the clock). His link to starting tight end Mark Andrews remains strong as the pair connected for gains of 15 and 20 yards over the middle.

But during a two-minute drill, the offense marched to the 11-yard line with 11 seconds left. Andrews dropped a pass from Jackson in the end zone, which Andrews acknowledged by slapping the turf with his hand. On the ensuing play with six seconds remaining, Jackson scrambled to his right and threw the ball to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who also dropped it in the end zone with no time remaining.

Overshadowed by fellow cornerbacks like Humphrey, Young and Marcus Peters, Shaun Wade may have put forth his best showing during a four-on-four drill inside the red zone. First, he broke up a pass from quarterback Tyler Huntley that was intended for running back Gus Edwards in the back of the end zone. Then Wade prevented Watkins from catching a lob in the back left corner of the end zone.

Wade is far from a lock for making the roster, but a few more performances like that could go a long way towards getting his name into the conversation.

Practice Report: Tight End Josh Oliver Is Elevating for a Job - Ryan Mink

On Monday, Josh Oliver literally elevated the game, skying for the most impressive catch of the day to make a statement in the competition. Oliver leapt over cornerback Anthony Averett and held on for a touchdown during red-zone 7-on-7 drills. He also made a couple catches in tight traffic.

Rookie fourth-round wide receiver Tylan Wallace had a busy day, showing how versatile he can be underneath and making a particularly toe-dragging catch on the sideline.

Tyus Bowser showed off his pass rush, bursting around the left side of the offensive line for what would have been a sack on Jackson. Bowser went from five sacks in 2019 to two last season. He’ll be looking to get that number back up.

Although Oliver caught the touchdown over him, Averett rebounded with a nice pass breakup in the back of the end zone later in 7-on-7s.

Ravens Training Camp Day 10: Ronnie Stanley Returns, Lamar Sharp Again - Todd Karpovich

Stanley was limited in drills, but it was a good sign that he will be ready for the regular-season opener in Las Vegas.

“He’s very much on schedule,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Center Bradley Bozeman left the field about 90 minutes into practice with an athletic trainer for an undisclosed injury. Harbaugh said the move was precautionary and did not expect Bozeman to miss much time.

Guard Kevin Zeitler missed practice again with a foot sprain. Harbaugh expects Zeitler to be back in the coming days.

Top 10 undrafted players entering 2021 NFL season - Shaun O’Hara

Rank 8

Alejandro Villanueva

After starting 90 consecutive games for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2015-2020, Villanueva is taking his talents to rival Baltimore and switching from left to right tackle. It should be a smooth transition for the two-time Pro Bowl selectee, a well-respected player whose mindset and style of play fits the Ravens’ run-first offense well.

Rank 3

Justin Tucker

Tucker is the Mariano Rivera of NFL closers, as he’s eliminated the what-if factor in the kicking game. Go ahead and lock in points for the Ravens if they get within his range — and maybe even if they’re a little bit outside of it. According to Pro Football Reference, he has converted 90.7 percent of his career field goals, the highest rate in NFL history. That’s an incredible feat considering the four-time All-Pro has played his entire career in the daunting weather of AFC North cities.

NFL 100: At No. 39, Ed Reed was every quarterback’s No. 1 concern - Jeff Duncan

During his 12-year Hall of Fame career, Reed was known as a wandering genius, a master at gridiron subterfuge, routinely freelancing before the snap to confuse the enemy and frustrate opposing quarterbacks. He was rarely where opponents expected him to be. At times, he would align in spots that even surprised his own teammates and coaches.

It was all by design, part of the chess game Reed orchestrated from the center field of the dominant Baltimore Ravens defenses in the 2000s.

“Reed knew that when he went to the middle of the field, Peyton would come back to the X, so he ran to the middle of the field, and without even looking at the quarterback, turned and ran back over to the sideline and intercepted it,” Belichick said years later. “Best play I’ve ever seen a free safety make. One of the greatest plays I have seen in the NFL.”

“Ed Reed is the best safety in the history of the game,” former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. “And I don’t think it’s close.”