The Ravens have six rookie undrafted free-agent receivers on the roster and none of them have really produced consistently in practices open to the media. However, Oregon’s Devon Williams has probably been the most noticeable one. Williams made back-to-back plays Wednesday, catching a relatively short pass and then elevating over cornerback David Vereen to haul in a deep one from Brown, his college teammate at Oregon.
Another receiver to flash Wednesday was Binjimen Victor, who spent last season on the Ravens practice squad. Victor beat rookie Jalyn Armour-Davis across the field for a big gain. Pass game defensive coordinator Chris Hewitt immediately got on Armour-Davis on the sideline.
Fourth-year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson worked hard on his body this offseason, shedding weight in an effort to get more explosive. It’s been evident this week. It’s always tough to judge pass rushers this time of year in non-contact practices because they’re told to stay away from the quarterback. However, Ferguson has been very noticeable, playing like a guy who knows he needs a strong preseason to stick. He’s played extremely hard and shown a burst off the edge. He beat Ja’Wuan James badly on one play, earning catcalls from the sideline. Ferguson did have a scare later in practice when his foot got caught under him and he fell to the ground. However, he got re-taped and finished practice.
Second-year outside linebacker Daelin Hayes has continued his strong play from OTAs. He dropped into coverage to pick off a short pass from Jackson over the middle and scamper up the sideline. Hayes was good in coverage in college and is showing his instincts and hands now in the NFL.
The Ravens have a lot of safeties, but Geno Stone keeps standing out. He would have some big-hit highlights by now if it was allowed. Stone would have leveled Nick Boyle on one long pass.
Rookie cornerback Damarion “Pepe” Williams made a leaping interception during 7-on-7 drills that not only showed his athleticism, but also the hands to bring it in. After practice, Pass Game Coordinator/Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt said Williams is just a good football player who brings a lot of energy to the field.
The defensive players had an interesting game at the end of practice, which focusses on who has the quickest hand movement. Defensive tackle Aaron Crawford was the surprise winner, per Justin Madubuike. Mike Macdonald and his staff also used a new drill aimed at getting more batted balls at the line. Players would hit the sled before having to leap to tip passes.
Despite a shocking 28-12 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans in January 2020, the Ravens remain convinced that their run-first approach can work in an NFL that has skewed heavily toward the passing game in the past two decades.
In fact, this offseason they appear to have doubled down on the idea.
Can that 2019 formula work again?
In a loaded AFC featuring Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and other quarterbacks who can light up the scoreboard, can the Ravens keep pace? After trading away Marquise Brown, the Ravens’ returning wide receivers have a combined total of 1,227 career yards — 228 fewer than Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase tallied last season alone.
To be sure, the Ravens need other factors to fall into place for this season to replicate 2019. They need dominant offensive line play to protect Jackson and sustain drives. They need a pass rush that can induce quarterbacks into mistakes. And, as they painfully saw last year, they need to stay healthy.
Four years later, this system may no longer be revolutionary, but the Ravens still think it can take them to the Super Bowl.
Baltimore Ravens designed offense to maximize Lamar Jackson, not feed belly-aching wide receivers - Jeffri Chadiha
“If the Ravens had more creativity in the passing game and they put more emphasis on it during the season, I think more receivers would be open to coming,” said Snead, who played in Baltimore from 2018 through 2020. “Because Lamar is a great player to play with. He’s all about the team. He’s fun. He brings the energy every single day. You want to play with quarterbacks like that. But the system pushes guys away. That’s why the Ravens are always drafting two receivers every year.”
The most striking aspect of the Jackson-led Ravens always has been their unabashed approach to a particular style of offense. Head coach John Harbaugh continually celebrates the uniqueness of Baltimore’s run-heavy system, and he’s predictably prickly when critics question if such an approach can win a Lombardi Trophy in today’s pass-happy NFL. The Ravens consistently stick with the mantra that they are who they are. The people who don’t like it can simply change the channel if they want to watch a different brand of football.
Baltimore puts franchise tag on Jackson, signs him to a long-term deal
If the sides can’t sign an extension by March 7, the Ravens would have to use the franchise tag to keep Jackson off the free-agent market.
It’s rare for the Ravens to use the tag. Baltimore has done it twice in the previous decade. It’s almost as rare to see NFL teams use the tag on quarterbacks.
By using the tag, Baltimore would have limited negotiating windows for an extension: between the end of this season and July 15, 2023; and between the end of next season and July 15, 2024.
The Ravens have a strong track record of signing players after applying the tag. Of the seven players tagged in their history, the Ravens reached long-term deals with five (cornerback Chris McAlister, linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, running back Ray Rice and kicker Justin Tucker). Only offensive lineman Wally Williams and outside linebacker Matthew Judon signed elsewhere after receiving the franchise tag.