Ravens and Commanders open ‘chirpy’ joint practice with fight as Lamar Jackson and Co. test revamped offense
Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun
“It was hot outside, it gets chirpy,” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “It gets really intense in these practices. … Practices can always get chirpy, but I think it was really good that it didn’t turn into a big, gigantic brawl. It got heated, and then it kind of died down, which shows a lot of maturity on both teams.”
As for the Ravens’ revamped offense, it was a mixed bag of results.
On what was Jackson’s prettiest throw of the day, the quarterback connected with running back Justice Hill on a deep wheel route down the left sideline. But on the next three plays, he overthrew a streaking Zay Flowers, who had a step on fellow first-round draft pick Forbes; under-threw Odell Beckham Jr., allowing Forbes to recover and break up the play; and then overthrew an open Andrews.
“It was good to go against someone else instead of my teammates every day,” Jackson said. “[We can] see where we are before the season starts, seeing if our timing is down pat and stuff like that.”
Jackson connected with Beckham on one deep ball after the receiver beat cornerback Kendall Fuller. The ball looked to be underthrown, but Beckham adjusted to haul it in.
Kris Rhim, The Baltimore Banner
Jackson was unofficially 9-for-11 with one of the incompletions being a pass to Odell Beckham out of an RPO concept that went for what would have been a touchdown, but was called back for an ineligible receiver downfield.
The best play of the period came on a deep throw to Mark Andrews. With pressure coming on his left side, Jackson stepped up in the pocket and launched the ball to Andrews, who had beaten Commanders defensive back Kamren Curl deep. Andrews had three catches.
Ben Cleveland, who had been a favorite at left guard but appears to have fallen out of that competition, played with the second unit at right tackle. Cleveland’s play oscillated as he and defensive end Casey Toohill traded good and bad reps.
Running back Keaton Mitchell bounced a run outside for a significant gain to continue his strong showing in camp. Justice Hill also had a gain that looked similar to his big rush in the first preseason game. Hill’s running lane was clogged, so he bounced the run to the opposite field for a big gain.
Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com
The Ravens expect the Jackson-Beckham connection to produce big plays, not just passes that move the chains. Beckham can make every catch in the book and run every pattern on the route tree. But at age 30, he’s still a threat to hit a home run play at any moment.
“I feel like our chemistry, it’s there,” Jackson said after Tuesday’s practice. “And he’s a lot faster than people give him credit for. A lot faster.”
Marlon Humphrey knows what it feels like to be deceived by Beckham’s speed. Defending Beckham in practice has given Humphrey a front row seat, and he says Beckham may have an extra gear that he’s saving for the regular season.
“Whatever this means, he said, ‘I’m not going to do to you what I’d do to guys in the game,’” Humphrey said. “He’s done some kind of bad stuff to me, actually, so that’s a good thing – that there’s more in the tank.
“I think that connection’s going to be sweet. I’m really excited for those two guys to make some big things happen.”
Humphrey also said he expects the Ravens will have two 1,000-yard wide receivers this season, though he didn’t specify which ones. Beckham and rookie Zay Flowers have been spectacular in practice and Rashod Bateman recently returned to practice action from last season’s foot surgery.
Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Ronnie Stanley, Tyler Linderbaum, Kevin Zeitler, Morgan Moses, Patrick Mekari, Daniel Faalele, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Sam Mustipher, John Simpson
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Ben Cleveland
LONG SHOT: David Sharpe, Tashawn Manning, TyKeem Doss, Jake Guidone, Brandon Kipper, Jaylon Thomas
NON-FOOTBALL INJURY LIST: Andrew Vorhees
Skinny: The ninth offensive line spot could come down to Simpson or Cleveland, and that decision will depend on where Baltimore is with the left guard spot. If the rookie Aumavae-Laulu is giving every indication that he can handle the starting job, the Ravens may prefer to keep Cleveland over Simpson for more versatility since the former has been practicing at both right guard and right tackle this summer.
IN: Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton, Geno Stone, Ar’Darius Washington
WRONG SIDE OF THE BUBBLE: Daryl Worley
LONG SHOT: Jaquan Amos
Skinny: Washington remains one of the top candidates for the nickel spot while Worley is coming off an excellent performance in the preseason opener. However, given Stephens’ ability to move between cornerback and safety, Baltimore could still elect to keep another cornerback over the 28-year-old Worley, who is viewed as a safety at this point in his career.
Bill Barnwell, ESPN
Chances to make the playoffs, per ESPN’s FPI: 54.8%
Chances to play in the Super Bowl: 6.8%
Biggest flaw: Pass rush
I’m concerned about the Ravens’ pass rush. Are the Ravens? It doesn’t appear so. General manager Eric DeCosta has seen former Baltimore players Yannick Ngakoue and Justin Houston sign deals in the past couple of weeks to play elsewhere in 2023 without being tempted to add a veteran pass-rusher to his own roster. A Ravens team that won’t return a single player who racked up more than six sacks a year ago seems to be comfortable staying put with its front seven.
Enter David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh, who will shoulder the bulk of the pass-rushing workload on the edge. Oweh has a modest 8 sacks and 26 knockdowns across 1,249 defensive snaps across his first two seasons, while Ojabo only played 21 defensive snaps last season in his return from a torn Achilles. Both players will see an increase in their snap count this season, while veteran Tyus Bowser will also get reps.
If any team deserves the benefit of the doubt for developing young talent on defense, it might be the Ravens, so I’m willing to believe one of these two guys impresses in 2023. Given the stakes, though, this could end up being a glaring weakness on Baltimore’s roster. With the Ravens turning over two of their three starting cornerback spots around star Marlon Humphrey, they are going to need all the pass-rushing help they can get against the best teams in the AFC. DeCosta traded for Ngakoue when the Ravens needed help during the 2020 season; I wonder if he’ll consider a similar trade for a veteran this October if Oweh and Ojabo get off to slow starts.