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Ravens News 6/6: OTA Standouts and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Twelve Ravens thoughts following second open OTA workout - Luke Jones

Between Greg Roman’s humorous comments and Mike Macdonald joking about providing “some sense of urgency” in development, Ravens coaches clearly like what they’ve seen from Tyler Linderbaum and Kyle Hamilton to this point. Most rookies experience some ups and downs, but they’re right on schedule.

Tyler Badie has shown good burst and has lived up to his reputation as a legitimate pass-catching option out of the backfield. The sixth-round rookie running back should be an interesting player to watch this summer, especially with Justice Hill entering the final year of his rookie contract.

The sight of Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, and Ojabo observing from the sideline reminds of the upside the 2022 team has if — and that’s a major “if” — these players return to pre-injury form sooner than later. Dobbins caught some passes from the Jugs machine while in a stationary position.

Macdonald noted the value of re-signing Calais Campbell to offer guidance to the coaching staff in addition to his very strong play. For the record, Campbell is 10 months older than his new defensive coordinator, who won’t turn 35 until later this month.

Players Standing Out at Ravens OTAs - Ryan Mink

I may be driving the Daelin Hayes hype train at this point. The second-year Notre Dame product has good burst off the edge and can bend. As he adds more tricks to his arsenal, he could be a productive pass rusher who can also drop into coverage.

The left guard competition won’t heat up until training camp but keep an eye on Tyre Phillips. He won the job last year before getting hurt and he’s improved his physique. If Phillips can stay healthy and locked into guard (instead of filling in at tackle), he could break out.

Somebody else flying under the radar is Jaryd Jones-Smith, the 6-foot-7 offensive tackle who has bounced around a few teams’ practice squads. The longer Ja’Wuan James isn’t on the field, the more Jones-Smith can stake his claim to a reserve role, especially if he can play left tackle too.

The return of Tony Jefferson is a joy. He’s injected his fun personality and competitiveness back into this team, and you often hear him at practice shouting at or joking with somebody. He’s also moving really well. Of all the reunions, he’s near or at the top of the list.

Ravens Undrafted Rookie Slade Bolden Shows Potential - Todd Karpovich

Bolden has already flashed in voluntary workouts with his poise at catching the ball as a wideout and on special teams.

He’ll compete for a spot on the final roster as a returner but he is also an all-around athlete that can make plays and different spots on the field.

“Slade is another guy that comes in who’s a returner,” Ravens special teams coach Chris Horton said. “We’re always looking for returners, and he’s done that. He’s done that at [the University of] Alabama. His job is just going to have to be able to come in here, work and get better, and just try to compete for a job.

“Just take it one day at a time. We give every guy an opportunity. He’s going to play a lot in these preseason football games. But he’s just got to get better, that’s all.”

How Ravens’ Lamar Jackson can return to MVP form as a passer - Nate Tice

Empty formations

2019:

Jackson’s performance when in empty formations, featuring no offensive player in the backfield with the quarterback, was one of the catalysts for his MVP run. It allowed the Ravens to spread out the formation and for Jackson to find an option with his arm or use his legs as the de facto checkdown with wide swaths of running space to take advantage of.

Jackson was simply devastating out of empty formations in 2019. According to TruMedia, no quarterback has generated more EPA out of such formations since.

2021:

Though defenses blitzed the Ravens about the same amount in these situations as they did in 2019, the blitzes and coverage they ran behind them started to home in on weaknesses in the Ravens’ protection scheme and route design and displayed a growing awareness of Jackson’s preferred play style.

Empty formations feature just the five offensive linemen to protect the quarterback. And because of that, quarterbacks have to think and operate quickly, especially against the blitz. Quarterbacks must get ball out in a short amount of time, or create something out of thin air if their first option is a dud.

Potential fix for 2022:

Jackson can help himself by trusting other answers that a play might have in these situations, and it’s on offensive coordinator Greg Roman to present those answers. Modern defenses have a better understanding of offensive rules than ever before; they want the quarterback to get rid of the ball so they can tackle and force a punt. So quarterbacks (and play designers) have to have the confidence to hang in the pocket and deliver throws outside or more downfield, even with a potential free-running defender bearing down.

Lamar Jackson contract hot takes miss reality of QB’s firm future with Ravens - Vinnie Iyer

Every narrative can be flipped to be controversial, but Jackson gets it more than QBs because it’s still somehow difficult for some to get over the fact his style of play works well for what the Ravens want to do. Jackson isn’t holding their offense back and if anything, it would be the other way around.

Jackson deserves credit for the way he’s handling his contract situation vs. the traditional sense, because he should be empowered with confidence to bet on himself. Likewise, the Ravens deserve the benefit of the doubt that they are a class organization with stable coaching who tend to always make the right decisions at the right times.

Any takes to the contrary don’t hold any water. It’s time to chill on the Jackson inaction and just prepare for him having another big season as the Ravens’ quarterback of the present and future.