Ravens camp observations: Bubble gets thinner, Sammy Watkins has big day and John Harbaugh vocal with DBs - Jeff Zrebiec
The highlight of the early one-on-ones between receivers and defensive backs was the matchup between Sammy Watkins and Marcus Peters. Watkins had receptions in all three reps. Peters was in good position on the first one, but Watkins caught the back-shoulder fade. Watkins turned him around with an inside move on the second one and then elevated over Peters in the back of the end zone on the third.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson wasted no time in trying to get the ball downfield. In the first play of the first 11-on-11 session, Jackson threw a bomb down the far sideline to Watkins. It was a pretty good throw. However, cornerback Anthony Averett was in great position on Watkins and broke it up. Averett continues to have a very strong training camp after missing the first two practices because of his struggles passing the conditioning test.
Inside linebacker L.J. Fort ate up a screen pass to Justice Hill and made several other strong plays. Fellow inside linebacker Kristian Welch got his first camp interception, picking off a McSorley screen pass that deflected off running back Nate McCrary. Welch returned it for a touchdown, encountering little resistance in the process.
On a slant over the middle, Watkins made an extended fingertips grab and burst between two defenders. When Watkins gets the ball in his hands, he gets up the field in a hurry. He’s going to greatly help the Ravens get more yards after catch this season.
Some good injury news is that right guard Kevin Zeitler came out near the end of practice to work out. He seemed to be moving well after being out since Aug. 3 with a foot injury
Devin Duvernay joined Watkins in having a strong day. The second-year wideout caught a long pass from McSorley, exploding past Davontae Harris on a go-route. Duvernay did well to go up and make the catch instead of trying to let it fall to him. While Duvernay was used on jet sweeps and other shorter throws last year to maximize his run-after-catch ability, it was a reminder of his top-notch flat-out 4.4-second speed that can stress defenders over the top.
Third running back Justice Hill has a lot of quickness to get to the edge, but it was good to see him find a seam up the middle on an 11-on-11s carry early in practice. Running Backs Coach Craig Ver Steeg said Hill has been focused on improving between the tackles.
Mark Andrews continues to be Lamar Jackson’s top target in 11-on-11 work, as the two connected for an easy 15-yard gain on the first play of one series. Jackson then connected with undrafted rookie tight end Tony Poljan on a slant.
Surprise slant: Sammy Watkins is suddenly Ravens’ iron man receiver - Jamison Hensley
“That dude is fast,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “He’s going to bring a lot of plays to our team.”
“Sammy makes my job a lot easier,” Jackson said. “Even when we’re doing scramble drills and stuff like that, he’s fighting off defenders, getting open. I missed him in the end zone — a little back shoulder [throw]. He was right there. I’m mad I missed him. I’m still mad right now, even though it’s practice. I love working with him.”
“Sammy, to me, is one of the best receivers in the NFL — period,” Roman said. “I think he’s doing a great job, really, in everything — meetings, everything, just his presence, his communication with the other receivers [and] the advice he’s giving them. So, he’s a much more seasoned player than I knew him in his second year. So, it’s really fun to see him.”
Ravens Pass Rush Goes From Question Mark to Area of Strength - Todd Karpovich
Defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Justin Madubuike have been getting pressure inside the interior line and that should carry over to the season.
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen has gotten more adept at finding seams and getting the quarterback.
Rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh has dazzled coaches with his size and speed and he’s managed to get into the backfield several times during the past two weeks, Veteran Tyus Bowser has shown more polish and he’s poised to raise his sacks total this season.
“Certainly, in this league, you’ve got to put pressure on the passer, and you’ve got to affect the quarterback,” defensive line coach Anthony Weaver said. We know that, and nobody does that better than they’ve done here, under ‘Wink’s’ tutelage especially. But you still have to earn the right to rush the passer in this league, so players like Brandon Williams, like Justin Ellis, they’re incredibly valuable. And while a lot of the things they do may not show up on the stats sheet, they’re productive.
Can they strike any fear into opposing secondaries?: Baltimore wants to expand its potency through the air after attempting the fewest passes in the league each of the past two seasons. But it may become premature to file a progress report this month as QB Lamar Jackson recovers from his second bout with COVID-19 while first-round WR Rashod Bateman will likely be sidelined multiple weeks with a groin injury.