Ronnie Stanley looked like an All-Pro left tackle while getting his most extended work since returning from ankle surgery. After individual drills, Stanley squared off against several Panthers defensive ends during team drills and had his way. Nobody that Stanley lined up against come close to getting to the quarterback.
Calais Campbell wrapped up a strong two days of practice, giving Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and other running backs little running room inside. Campbell said Wednesday that he’s ready if the season started tomorrow, and it looked that way.
Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen had his hands full when he shadowed McCaffrey, who showed his elusiveness and precise route running to make several receptions. However, Queen continued to flash near the football, getting into the backfield very quickly on one blitz.
Rookie outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes were both getting pressure on Panthers quarterbacks. Although starting quarterback Sam Darnold often got rid of the football quickly, he felt the presence of Baltimore’s young pass rushers, who continued to show promise.
Ravens camp observations: A day of struggles for undermanned offense and scary moment involving Mark Andrews - Jeff Zrebiec
One-on-one matchups weren’t as kind to Ravens undrafted rookie Foster Sarell, who was pushed back by Christian Miller and then beaten cleanly by Frankie Luvu. Patrick Mekari whiffed against standout Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns and Ben Bredeson couldn’t handle Bravvion Roy. Ravens guard Ben Powers held up well, as he did Wednesday, and Andre Smith won his first rep against Miller.
Defensively, the Ravens weren’t as sharp as they were in Wednesday’s practice. They did continue to get pressure on Sam Darnold and company, but the Panthers were able to make more plays downfield. They also reeled off a couple of long runs. One of the day’s biggest highlights for Carolina was Brandon Zylstra’s leaping catch in the back of the end zone over Ravens rookie safety Brandon Stephens.
With Sammy Watkins and Devin Duvernay joining Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, and Miles Boykin among the wide receivers not practicing Thursday, the second preseason game is setting up to showcase James Proche if the offensive line can provide quarterbacks enough time. That’s a big if at this point.
With camp attention on other outside linebackers, Tyus Bowser has felt like a forgotten man. That’s not to suggest he hasn’t had a good camp, but I’m fascinated to see how increased snaps translate for someone whose 13.1% pressure rate ranked in the top 25 among edge defenders, per PFF.
Ja’Wuan James has been a frequent observer at practices and doesn’t show the pronounced lower leg atrophy you see with some players recovering from Achilles injuries. That’s not to predict he’ll be able to play later this season, but it’d be interesting to know what his rehab timeline looks like.
The Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations will depend in large part on whether they’re able to find answers offensively in the passing game. In 2019, Lamar Jackson ranked first in TruMedia’s Expected Points Added (EPA) per play metric. Last year, he dropped all the way to 16th. But Harbaugh has been consistent in his messaging all offseason: He believes the Ravens need tweaks, not an overhaul.
“Not big changes,” he told The Athletic. “We didn’t execute as well last year as we did two years ago in the passing game across the board. A lot of things go into that. We didn’t protect as well, to start with, as we did two years ago. So you’ve just gotta be better at what you do, I think. If we’re good at what we do, then the concepts of the offense are going to be effective.”
The numbers suggest that the types of throws Jackson attempted last year were not much different than the ones he attempted in 2019 when he won MVP. Next Gen Stats tracks tight-window throws, which are defined as attempts where there is a defender within 1 yard of the pass-catcher. In 2019, 14.7 percent of Jackson’s attempts were into tight windows. Last year, it was nearly identical at 14.4 percent.
Next Gen Stats also tracks expected completion percentage. It looks at the likelihood of a completion on every pass, given distance, separation, pressure and other factors. In 2019, Jackson’s expected completion percentage was 65.3 percent. Last year, it was 64.9 percent.
The Ravens’ offensive line finished eighth in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric last season. In other words, it’s no given that the pass protection will be better this year, despite the change in personnel.
NFL bounce-back candidates: What went wrong for 32 players last season and their outlook for 2021 - Anthony Treash
PFF grade in 2020: 65.9
What went wrong: Zeitler performed at a quality level relative to the rest of the league’s guards in 2020, but it wasn’t up to his standards. His 65.9 PFF grade was his lowest in nine career seasons by over seven points. Zeitler’s start to the 2020 season with the Giants was a key factor in his grade taking a steep hit. He allowed multiple pressures in eight of his 16 starts, and five of those came within the first five weeks. Perhaps a normal offseason playing in a Baltimore system that will also limit his true pass-set opportunities will get him back to the consistent, stout lineman he was before last season.