Ravens minicamp: With J.K. Dobbins missing, and other stars not shining, Lamar Jackson and offense carry on
Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner
Beating the blitz
Jackson opened minicamp with a solid, if unspectacular, day of practice. Unofficially, he finished 28-for-39 in team drills, with his production helped by an early dose of screens and quick hitters and hurt by some dropped passes, including a couple by Likely. Undrafted cornerback Jordan Swann also dropped a would-be interception.
Jackson continued to get rid of the ball quickly, rarely pumping the ball downfield. He found running backs in the flat and receivers running shallow crosses with regularity, sometimes contorting his arm angle to throw around pressure in the pocket.
One of Jackson’s most impressive plays started before the snap. One play after Agholor’s deep completion, the defense showed a “Cover 0″ look: man-to-man coverage out wide, no deep safeties, an all-out blitz coming Jackson’s way. As he had in the Ravens’ Week 2 loss to the Miami Dolphins last season, Jackson motioned over a receiver — in this case, Likely — and gained an extra blocker at the snap. The protection held up long enough for Jackson to take a quick drop and nail a throw to wide receiver Andy Isabella, who’d gotten a half-step on safety Ar’Darius Washington on a crossing pattern.
At other times Tuesday, Jackson announced one-word play calls at the line of scrimmage, part of his growing responsibilities in Monken’s higher-tempo, more flexible system.
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Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun
The best noncatch of the day belonged to Agholor, who broke cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s ankles on an inside move and left him a couple yards back at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, Jackson missed Agholor down the sideline.
The best catch of the day belonged to wide receiver Tylan Wallace, who snagged a one-hander on the right side of the field from backup quarterback Tyler Huntley for a 15-yard gain.
Rookie to watch
Rookie outside linebacker Malik Hamm, an undrafted free agent from Lafayette, continues to impress. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Baltimore native and City graduate not only has strength and quickness, but a strong motor.
He refuses to stay blocked and has good pursuit. Finding more outside linebackers, especially for special teams, will be a concern for Harbaugh going into training camp
Left guard intrigue
The Ravens like to rotate offensive linemen, especially on the interior, but rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon, took all the repetitions with the starting group at left guard.
He is expected to challenge third-year player Ben Cleveland for the starting left guard spot, but Cleveland is more of a power run blocker and the Ravens will need more speed and quickness in Monken’s offense.
Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com
“He had a shot for healing purposes – cortisone type deal – so that will keep him out for a couple days,” Harbaugh said. “We just decided to just let him keep rehabbing and make sure he’s ready to go for training camp.”
Harbaugh said second-year cornerback Pepe Williams would be sidelined until at least training camp with an undisclosed injury. Williams continued to watch Tuesday’s practice from the sideline as he has done during OTAs.
“Pepe is going to do ACT and some individual,” Harbaugh said. “He tells me he’s going to be back to start training camp – we’ll see. That’s where he’s at with his process.”
Other players who did not practice Tuesday included running back J.K. Dobbins, fullback Pat Ricard, defensive lineman Rayshad Nichols and tight end Brian Walker.
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It remains to be seen just how much control Jackson will actually have at the line of scrimmage on game day, but if you’re using Week 2 of the 2022 season as an indication of what an audible-heavier script can do for him, well, there’s plenty of reason to get hyped; that was when Jackson aired it out and totaled well over 400 yards in an explosive shootout with the Dolphins. At the end of the day, you’d probably rather have your QB capable of checking in and out of plays than not. And when you factor in Jackson’s inherent athleticism, which often enables him to clean up or extend broken plays, the risk isn’t necessarily as high, either.
By far the biggest reason to believe in a step forward for Jackson is the supporting cast. Coaches and schemes can do wonders, but oftentimes, it just comes down to talent. Do you have enough weapons at your disposal? That’s still a question in Baltimore, with Flowers yet to take any NFL snaps and Beckham coming off serious injuries. But if at least one of their key additions at receiver pans out, Jackson should indeed be able to throw downfield with more confidence. And maybe, just maybe, push those other AFC gunslingers when the games really matter.
Sam Monson, PFF
4. BALTIMORE RAVENS (DOWN 2)
Projected Starting Lineup
RT Morgan Moses
Ben Cleveland will look to replace Ben Powers, who had a career year at left guard before leaving in free agency. Cleveland has played fewer than 500 career snaps and posted generally average PFF grades.
With just 24 penalties in 2022, this was the least penalized offensive line in football during the regular season.
Best Player: Ronnie Stanley
Ronnie Stanley earned an 82.2 PFF pass-blocking grade after returning from a long injury layoff last season. He is an elite pass blocker at left tackle.