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Late For Work 8/8: Four Undrafted Ravens Rookies Awfully Hard to Cut

Posted Aug 8, 2017

James Hurst not giving up despite the signing of Austin Howard. 'I want to be the starter,' says Hurst. John Harbaugh is not concerned about Joe Flacco's absence. Anquan Boldin will be in Baltimore Preseason Week 3 … as a Buffalo Bill.

Four Undrafted Ravens Rookies Awfully Hard to Cut

The Ravens are known for uncovering at least one undrafted gem each year, who then goes on to become an important part of the team (see Michael Pierce from last year).

But, sheesh, the sheer volume this year is eye-popping.

“That streak [of keeping at least one] will almost certainly continue this year,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. “The organization … has seemingly put together one of its better college free-agent classes in years.”

Given the team’s history, that’s a BIG statement.

Below are four undrafted rookies who have had fantastic starts to training camp. And if they roll that into strong performances in preseason games, starting Thursday against the Washington Redskins, it’s going to be awfully hard for the Ravens to cut them.

WR Quincy Adeboyejo
Mississippi, 6-foot-3, 197 pounds

“Undrafted rookie Quincy Adeboyejo has been the Baltimore Ravens' most impressive wide receiver over the past week of training camp, running past the team's top defenders and pulling in receptions deep downfield,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

Did you catch that Hensley didn’t qualify that statement? Adeboyejo’s not among the most impressive rookies. Or undrafted players. He’s been the most impressive of all receivers this week.

“What's crazy is how Adeboyejo has stood out as the team's best deep threat. No one on the Ravens –  not Jeremy Maclin nor Mike Wallace – has produced more big plays over the past couple days of training camp,” Hensley wrote. 

“He didn't generate much buzz in offseason practices or the first week of training camp. The turning point occurred when it looked like his camp might be over. Adeboyejo fell hard to the ground in trying to make a catch and held his back. He was then carted off the field. Adeboyejo returned the next day and looked like a different receiver. He beat both starting corners, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr, as well as nickelback Lardarius Webb for big plays downfield.”

What is working against Adeboyejo is the sheer number of receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. There may be six spots available for the position, and in the depth chart released Friday, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Michael CampanaroChris Moore, and Kenny Bell are all listed in front of Adeboyejo. Plus, there’s Griff WhalenChris Matthews and another undrafted rookie standing out ….

WR Tim White
Arizona State, 5-10, 175

While Adeboyejo impresses with his size and ability to attack the ball downfield, White impresses with his sheer speed. Another thing White has going is his ability to contribute to the return game.

“Keep an eye on White,” says Hensley. “The undrafted rookie out of Arizona State worked with the starters as the slot receiver. White is constantly getting open because of his speed, which is why the Ravens wanted to see him with the first team. Michael Campanaro had been lining in the slot alongside Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace.”

Added Zrebiec, “White had been the most discussed undrafted rookie wide receiver before Adeboyejo’s recent emergence. However, White continues to make plays too. The former Arizona State player badly turned around Jaylen Hill to make a reception in the middle of the field [Saturday].”

Given the buzz both Adeboyejo and White have made, fans will be bummed to see either go, but looking at the numbers, the coaches are going to have some tough decisions to make.

In the video below, both Maclin and Wallace said White and Adeboyejo are impressive.

DE Patrick Ricard
Maine, 6-3, 300

The Ravens are deep along the defensive line. Very deep.

Which makes Ricard’s emergence even more impressive.

“It’s going to be very hard for the Ravens to keep undrafted rookie defensive tackle Patrick Ricard off the 53-man roster,” wrote Zrebiec. “Barring injuries, the Ravens are going to have some difficult choices to make along the defensive line, where they have a young and talented group.”

Five-year veteran Brandon Williams leads the way as the veteran of the group. Behind him are rookies Ricard and Chris Wormley, second-year players Pierce, Bronson Kaufusi and Willie Henry, third-year player Carl Davis and fourth-year veteran Brent Urban.

No wonder the Ravens felt comfortable trading Timmy Jernigan last April. And no wonder Zrebiec has suggested that Baltimore could trade another young defensive lineman to bolster thinner areas such as the offensive line.

“The Ravens probably won’t be able to keep all eight of them on their 53-man roster to open the regular season,” wrote Zrebiec. “It could be Henry, Davis and Ricard battling for one spot. Ricard might be at a disadvantage in that competition given his undrafted free-agent status, but he’s outplayed Henry and Davis through the first two weeks of camp. Teams love poaching Ravens defensive linemen because the success the team has had in identifying and developing quality players at that position, so it’s hardly a sure thing they could pass Ricard through waivers and store him on the practice squad. As I’ve written before, the best bet might be to try and get something in return for either Davis or Henry.”

CB Jaylen Hill
Jacksonville State, 5-10, 186

Given the significant knee injuries to Tavon Young and Maurice Canady, it’s good to see a corner’s name come up on the list.

“I didn’t know anything about Jacksonville State undrafted rookie corner Jaylen Hill when camp started, but he’s playing himself into consideration for a roster spot,” wrote Zrebiec.

Added Hensley: “[The] best play in Ravens camp on Monday: Hill covered a lot of ground to deflect a long pass to receiver Tim White around the goal line. Hill is catching the attention of coaches with plays like these. The undrafted rookie out of Jacksonville State is making a strong push to make the 53-man roster.”

Honorable mentions: Zrebiec says running back Taquan Mizzell has “flashed,” and Ricky Ortiz “remains in competition” with Lorenzo Taliaferro for the starting fullback role.

James Hurst Not Giving Up: ‘I Want to be the Starter’

The Ravens signed right tackle Austin Howard to a three-year deal reportedly worth $16 million Friday. With that type of investment, the natural assumption is that Howard is the clear favorite to become the starter.

But four-year veteran James Hurst, who has manned the position all offseason, isn’t about to give up without a fight.

I want to be the starter,” Hurst told The Sun’s Edward Lee. “I want to play, I want to be that guy at right tackle. If that’s the case, I’m grateful. If not, that’s out of my control.

“The only thing I can control is my preparation, my practice, my work ethic, just making sure that I’m getting better and putting myself in the best possible position to be a player on Sundays.”

Hurst has gotten extra time to prove his ability because Howard has not participated in the two practices the Ravens have held since he was signed Friday. He underwent shoulder surgery in January.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said that Howard hasn’t practiced because he hasn’t been cleared by trainers yet. “When they tell us he can practice, we will coach him,” he said.

“I’m not going to be resentful,” Hurst said of the addition of Howard. “That’s not how I approach it. That’s a negative mindset that is just going to bog you down. Every day when I go out, I’ve got to compete with myself and make sure I’m a better player today than I was yesterday and so on and so on. If I do that, I’ll be happy with what happens on the field and what happens with the depth chart. That’s my mindset. It is a difficult position, but that’s how I approach it.”

Harbaugh Not Concerned About Flacco’s Absence

Quarterback Joe Flacco has not participated in the 11 days since camp started. It might be a little longer than initially projected (about a week), but that doesn’t concern Harbaugh.

“I don't think it's going to be a problem because Joe knows the offense," Harbaugh said. "But still, there's a rhythm, a chemistry and timing and execution that practice is valuable for. So, the sooner the better, but not before he's ready. As a coach, you want to get him as soon as you can, that's the bottom line. I want him here yesterday. I want him a week ago. I want him here the first day. As soon as he's ready to go, we'll go to work to get him ready."

Hensley says one of the reasons why the Ravens can take a “cautious approach” is because Flacco is entering his 10th season.

Anquan Boldin Will be in Baltimore Week 3 of the Preseason … As a Buffalo Bill

Turns out, former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin will return to Baltimore this season, but as a Buffalo Bill.

That will allow Ravens fans to give him a warm welcome and “thank you” (again) for his part in the franchise’s Super Bowl XLVII run.

But don’t expect to see him play too much. The Bills are coming to town for the third preseason game on August 26. That’s usually the game when veterans get the most playing time, but it’s still only about a half and I doubt a 15-year veteran will want to risk injury.

For a minute, it looked like Boldin might not sign with the Bills, reopening speculation on whether he could return to the purple and black. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Boldin agreed to a Bills deal last week, backed out, and then changed his mind again and signed a one-year contract worth up to $4 million.

Boldin reunites with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was the backup to Flacco while Boldin was also on the team.

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